GAMBIER — Mount Vernon community leaders will picture the future of downtown Mount Vernon when they join a discussion at Kenyon on “Reimagining Main Street.”
Hosted by Howard Sacks, professor of sociology and director of the Kenyon Rural Life Center, “Reimagining Main Street” takes place on Tuesday at 11:10 a.m. in the Peirce Hall Lounge, 201 College-Park St.
Speakers include Mark Ramser, philanthropist and president of the Ohio Cumberland Gas Co.; Lynne Ricard, downtown manager of the Heritage Centre Association; and Jeff Spear, vice president for finance at Mount Vernon Nazarene University, which has helped spur downtown redevelopment. Sacks will lead a discussion with the speakers and will then engage the audience in a wider dialogue.
“Mount Vernon, like other downtown county seats in the Midwest, has really undergone some dramatic changes in the last 25 years,” Sacks said. “When I got here in the middle 1970s, Mount Vernon was in many ways doing what it had done for 125 years. It was the commercial center. It was a place where you could find the necessities of life without leaving the county.”
The influx of national chain stores, expansion of metropolitan Columbus with regional shopping malls, and Internet commerce have changed much of the commercial nature of the downtown, but the value of the central crossroads goes well beyond business interests, Sacks said. “The downtown has symbolic value, too. When you think about Mount Vernon, you tend to think about the public square and the statue, the historical architecture, the parades, and the farmers market.
“Historically, the downtown has always been a public space, a meeting ground,” he said. “People come together, shop, celebrate, and eat. That kind of social networking is really crucial to a community, that chance to bump into people that you don’t see elsewhere and catch up on each other’s lives.
“What happens with Main Street is really tied up with our sense of collective identity,” he said. “Here’s a chance to talk about it.”
To learn more about the event, contact Sacks at firstname.lastname@example.org and 427-5850. The forum is part of a series of community conversations, called Visits, organized by Sacks. The next one will be held on April 21 and will examine “Jewish Knox County.”
Published on March 28, 2011