Friday, August 03, 2001

Heart of town renews its life

Harrison marks project's finish

By Lew Moores
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HARRISON — The overhead wires are gone, the street has been widened, the crosswalks cast in brick, the sidewalks accented with pavers, the new street lights are in place — and at night, say those who live here, the street glows.

        Shopkeepers along Harrison Avenue have caught the fever. Their storefronts bloom with flower boxes and pots. By next spring the city will plant trees at the street corners.

[photo] Flower boxes decorate the way along State Street as part of the revitalization of Harrison Avenue in the downtown section of Harrison.
(Dick Swaim photos)
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        “Some people have said it'll never get done,” said Councilman Walter Powers. “Saturday we're going to prove it can be done.”

        Three blocks of Harrison Avenue, between State and Vine streets, will be blocked off for the city's 7th annual Celebration of the Arts Festival from 1 to 8 p.m. Saturday.

        And at 5 p.m., during the festival, the city will dedicate its recently completed streetscape project with a ribbon-cutting in the 100 block of Harrison.

        The $1.3 million project, involving city, county and state money, began earlier this year, with the most intense work taking place during the spring. Mr. Powers says the work is being completed ahead of schedule. He also gave credit to Councilman Lee Cook and Dan Gieringer, now the mayor, for pushing for the project.

        Gary Richards, executive director of Main Street Harrison, the organization that has spent the past decade trying to revitalize the city's downtown historic district, becomes animated when talking about the streetscape and what it will do for downtown Harrison.

[photo] Downtown Harrison has been upgraded with a wider street and new crosswalks have brick pavers.
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        “This is a town on the move,” said Mr. Richards as he walked the three blocks of Harrison Avenue. “This is showing people we're serious about what we're doing here.”

        The street has been widened by 3 feet and re-paved. Brick crosswalks and pavers in the sidewalks give it a bygone-era feel. The street lights suggest another time. Moving the utilities underground opens up a vista to the hillsides to the east.

        Joe Batta and Steve Sellers, who recently purchased the building at 217 Harrison, are taken with the streetscape and what it means to the community.

        “A year ago we probably wouldn't have bought it,” said Mr. Batta. “And next year it probably would've been too late.”

        “We thought this a good investment in the community, considering the streetscape,” said Mr. Sellers.

        Only a few storefronts are vacant, and Mr. Richards says he fields inquiries every day from people interested in investing in downtown Harrison.

        “It's a nice problem to have,” he said.

        Bill and Judi Paul opened Tri State Sewing Machines, a firm that sells and services the devices, at 227 Harrison earlier this year.

        “We heard something was going on down here,” said Mr. Paul, who placed a bench and flowers in front of his storefront. “We like the old style. We're here, we're established, we're not going anywhere.”

        Mr. Powers said traffic signals still need to be installed, and a pavilion is planned for a small park near State Street.

        “We wanted to make it appealing,” said Mr. Powers. “It's old Harrison, and to some of us who have been here for 50 and 60 years it was important to get this done.”

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