Monday, February 18, 2002

Communities turning to downtown programs



By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        To revitalize waning business districts, some communities are turning to Main Street programs, developed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1977.

        The program began after much of the country's population shifted from downtown centers to the suburbs, taking commerce with it and leaving old buildings abandoned.

        The idea was to reverse the neglect and restore Main Streets as places people could identify as unique to their communities. Programs are paid for by state and municipal dollars, and private donations.

        Southern towns, in particular, have taken advantage of the financial, research and design help offered through the program.

        “These business districts and downtowns are the living room of the community. It's a quality-of-life indicator, so all stakeholders need to be a part of the revitalization effort,” said Kevin Kuchenbercker, executive director of Downtown Ohio Inc. and Heritage Ohio, two statewide nonprofit organizations that administer the Ohio Main Street Program.

        It is too early in the Pisgah study to determine if a Main Street program is the way to go, said Jose Castrejon, director of planning at McGill, Smith and Pushon, a Sharonville architectural firm conducting the study.

        Mr. Kuchenbercker said he met last year with Butler County Economic Development, a county office that also works with a private, nonprofit corporation to lure new businesses, and visited many townships and cities in Butler County. County officials have explored a preliminary investigation for a countywide Main Street initiative, he said.

        Nationally, in 2000, $15.2 billion was spent reinvesting in 1,633 communities, netting 206,000 new jobs, according to the Ohio Main Street Program in Columbus. The average revitalization program lasted six years.

        In Ohio, from January 1998 to December 2000, $14.8 million was spent on eight communities, netting 628 new jobs. The average revitalization program spanned nearly four years.

       



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