MOUNT VERNON — Mount Vernon, along with Painesville and Lebanon, has been accepted into the Ohio Main Street Program administered by Heritage Ohio.
According to the Heritage Ohio Web site, the Main Street Program is designed to improve all aspects of the downtown or central business district, producing both tangible and intangible benefits. Improving economic management, strengthening public participation, and making downtown a fun place to visit are as critical to Main Street’s future as recruiting new businesses, rehabilitating buildings, and expanding parking.
Building on downtown’s inherent assets — rich architecture, personal service, and traditional values and most of all, a sense of place — the Main Street approach has rekindled entrepreneurship, downtown cooperation and civic concern. It has earned national recognition as a practical strategy appropriately scaled to a community’s local resources and conditions. And because it is a locally driven program, all initiative stems from local issues and concerns.
“We are in and we’re delighted,” said Ted Rice, Heritage Centre Association president. “We went down the day after our banquet to make the application. We actually found out the following week, but they asked us to wait until they could get out a press release.”
Rice is excited because of what it means to efforts to revitalize downtown Mount Vernon. Other cities in the program are in a situation similar to Mount Vernon’s, where their traditional downtown areas have been “strip malled” into near extinction.
“In the near term, we had to qualify by making a four-year commitment to participate in the program for activities and having funding for a full-time downtown manager,” Rice said. “So the first thing people will see is that our downtown manager will be made full-time, and she will have more hours to work on various projects for the group.”
Rice said another important result of the program will be training sessions for members of the HCA board. Heritage Ohio has four training sessions each year for the Ohio Main Street Program.
“In those trainings they deal with a range of topics that deal with downtown,” Rice explained. “Generally, they speak to one of the four committees. Those are promotions, design, economic restructuring and organization. A number of us will be going up in May to the two-day Main Street training workshop which you go through when you’re first admitted.”
There are now 50 towns and cities in the Ohio Main Street Program, and Rice said the training session offers more than just facts, data and strategies to those attending. Networking is also an important part of the time spent at the sessions.
“At these trainings we will spend a day or maybe two days hanging out with people from other towns who are facing a lot of the same problems that we face,” he said. “So we get to learn what’s working from them and a lot of times we will come up with ideas and find out what doesn’t work for others.”
Another benefit from being in the program is the national Main Street Program has a database with a large number of topics related to downtown revitalization.
“That gives us a really valuable resource for finding out even more information from downtowns all across the country,” Rice said.
HCA Downtown Manager Lynn Ricard is looking forward to using that database.
“The research I’ll be able to do through the national program which is available online is fantastic,” she said. “There’s just so much. I could spend all day researching this stuff for revitalization and preservation.”
The downtown project will be a work in progress, according to Rice and Ricard. it is not something that will be accomplished overnight.
“There’s always something,” Ricard said. “There’s always something being planned. It is going to take some time.”