As the big box stores expanded their numbers - and their sales were felt by local business on Main Street in area towns – local governments responded by looking for ways to enhance their downtown business districts.
Grants were used to improve storefronts, walkways, lighting and other features of the retail sector in several area villages.
Elmore Mayor Lowell Krumnow calls a downtown streetscape project a “win-win” for the community as it gave a boost to the business sector and the local government.
The village received a $400,000 Community Development Block Grant in 2005 through the Ohio Department of Development.
After factoring in administrative costs, village council voted to give half of the money received to private business and to retain half of the grant for reconstruction of Maple Street. which serves as a village business and truck route.
The businesses used their share for such projects as repaving parking lots, replacing windows, and doors, painting, and adding awnings and replacing heating systems.
Nearly $92,000 earmarked for private business wasn’t used.
Council used the remaining grant funds to add period lighting along Maple Street, purchase period street sign poles, signage, and benches for the downtown business district, and to pay for decorative concrete stenciling for the walkway near the town hall and post office.
A new message board was purchased and placed near the fire station and a kiosk was also constructed along the North Coast Inland Trail for visitors to view maps and announcements for upcoming village events.
New bicycle racks were placed along the bike path and in the business district.
The final projects were completed in 2007.
"It was very productive for our community and we would love to explore the possibility of doing it again when the economy turns around,” Mayor Krumnow said. “It was a win-win situation for both the business community and our local government."
When they were not planning for a major sewer separation project, village officials teamed up with members of the Woodville Business Association to plan for a streetscape project in the downtown business district.
With the village procuring a grant of $426,080 from the Ohio Department of Transportation, the WBA embarked on an effort to raise funds for the required 20 percent local match to cover engineering, design, and administrative expenses.
The project, which was completed in 2007 after two years of fundraising and planning, included replacing sidewalks, installing decorative streetlights, and planting trees.
To put the finishing touches on the renovated downtown, the WBA also purchased new Christmas decorations and lights for the district.
In all, the WBA donated $3,600 and the Woodville 4th of July Committee kicked in another $2,800 for the decorations.
The Ohio Department of Transportation in 2009 completed the widening of the stretch of Route 20 through the village, opening it to four lanes of traffic through much of the village’s main artery
Improvement projects in the Village of Genoa have focused on the downtown district and the entrances to the village, Mayor Mark Williams said.
To enhance the entrances, the village has embarked on a resurfacing program that has repaired streets, he said, noting village funding for the program is budgeted at $120,000 - $140,000 annually.
The first of five planned phases to reconstruct Washington Street has been completed.
Projects that have focused on the downtown area include the decorative street lighting program and resurfacing (paving) projects implemented under previous Mayor Thomas Perry.
“The inclusion of decorative banners hanging from the streetlights also fosters a festive climate for the downtown. Renovations to some of the buildings done both privately and publicly (with monies from a grant) have also helped,” Mayor Williams said. ”Street signs have been replaced in the Downtown Historic District in an effort to identity this unique area. The Walk-Through Park in the center of the downtown district received some updating in 2009. This area functions as the center of the many community activities held in Genoa.
“The most important factor contributing to the viability of the Genoa community is the businessmen, businesswomen, Genoa Area Chamber of Commerce, volunteers and residents that make things happen,” the mayor said. “The Genoa Civic Theatre, the Kiwanis Club, and the area churches all work with the businesses to provide a wide variety of activities in the Village. While the money spent by the village serves to enhance the activity of these dedicated people, it is their willingness to work together that has created a viable, successful downtown. “
In early 2007, plans were completed to start an $8.3 million combined storm overflow project. The project included the rebuilding of Mill and Water Streets and, with the cooperation of the Ohio Department of Transportation, the rebuilding of Locust Street. The project, now complete, will help ensure the village meets the long-term operation plan approved by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, said Mayor Fred Conley.
“These streets are the heart of the downtown business district,” he said.
A second major project is the $400,000 community development block grant downtown revitalization grant that was awarded in January 2007. Twenty privately owned buildings were improved with either code compliance or façade improvement work.
The program utilized $201,000 in grant dollars, with $249,623 in matching private funds. The village utilized $126,320 by making parking improvements on Main Street, which included Main Street angle parking and street lights.
The project was done in cooperation with the Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce, the mayor said.
The village will be applying for planning grant funds to tie in the Portage River waterfront to downtown businesses with a Riverwalk plan.