Turn-Around Towns

The National Main Street Conference, Going West Mobile Workshop was lead by Josette Fitzgibbons, Neighborhood Business District Manager of URA (Urban Redevelopment Authority) a giant revolving loan funded by Federal, Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh tax sources to support revitalization of many main streets when banks can’t fill in the gap.

Josette Fitzgibbons, URA guide

Josette Fitzgibbons, URA guide

Going West Mobile Workshop

Going West Mobile Workshop

McKees Rocks:

With just 6K people in 1 mile radius this tiny main street experienced a sharp decline when the railroad stopped coming through.  Since the 1980’s it has become the community of last resort with numerous challenges. The average home can be bought for under $50,000 with 65% transient renters.

Missing teeth vacant lots at McKees Rocks

Missing teeth vacant lots at McKees Rocks

With generational poverty, 80% are single parents and 100% of the school kids qualify for free lunch.

McKees Rocks Main Street

McKees Rocks Main Street

Josette had a couple of developers along the walking tour who pointed out buildings poised for revitalization along Chartiers Avenue.  One of the turn-around tours started at a 2 story building with a classic Corinthian column façade.   Sadly, the building is used as a vertical land fill of outdated computers. Attempting to sidestep an incapable building owner, developers worked with lawyers to form a conservatorship, a judge appointed guardian over an impaired building owner.

Historic Building Used as Vertical Land Fill

Historic Building Used as Vertical Land Fill

The Roxian Theatre Tour

The Roxian Theatre Tour

Next, the group stepped inside historic Roxian Theatre building along the 1/5 of a mile long Main Street. The original plans to renovate came in way over budget so the project stalled. The inside is a mess with dropped down ceilings covering historic filigree and exposed metal air handler ducts along the side walls.

The Roxian Theatre Building Renovation

The Roxian Theatre Building Renovation

Funding sources are in place for the Roxian, but there are operating challenges such as how to create affordable attractions in a hard scrabble neighborhood.

Little things link people together.

Little things link people together.

West End Village:

Josette’s hometown and 2 businesses that brought manufacturing to a stagnant Main Street.

West End Main Street Tour

West End Main Street Tour

West End Main Street Tour

West End Main Street Tour

The Miller Process Coating Company was our first stop.

Business Finds Stability in a Historic Building

Business Finds Stability in a Historic Building

West End is attractive to the working class who want peace and quiet. It is only 15 minutes away from downtown Pittsburgh and the building prices are affordable. One entrepreneur bought a 2 story historic brick building on the gateway of Main Street and completed a full loan revitalization.  West End is in close proximity to the confluence of the Ohio, Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers. Not only did he have to adhere to the codes of the City but the building owner encountered major flooding problems on the first floor.

Manufacturing in a Historic Building

Manufacturing in a Historic Building

Cutting in a Skylight

Cutting in a Skylight

Manufacturing robotics

Manufacturing robotics

The Unfinished Look is Trending

The Unfinished Look is Trending

The building owner hesitated when asked if he would tackle a project like this again. The result is an attractive working environment to design and build specialty machines and robotics. The tour continued to James Gallery a business wearing different hats to thrive.

Art Gallery, Gallery Rental for Events and Custom Framing

Art Gallery, Gallery Rental for Events and Custom Framing

Beautiful Inviting Front Entry off Main Street

Beautiful Inviting Front Entry off Main Street

The property owner sat on 2 lots for several years before opening up the James Gallery in a historic 2 story brick building.  The front of the building is open structure for the art gallery. The owner added ceiling hung flexible lighting and finished out the brick walls in drywall to accentuate the art pieces.

Art Gallery/Art Gallery Rental Space w/ Commercial Kitchen

Art Gallery/Art Gallery Rental Space w/ Commercial Kitchen

It helps to have the commercial kitchen and restrooms in the middle of the space to make it easy to rent out for functions.  A narrow slice of space behind the art gallery serves as custom frame shop.

Manufacturing Comes to Main Street

Manufacturing Comes to Main Street

Custom Framing Comes to Main Street

Custom Framing Comes to Main Street

The adjoining lot has been transformed into an outdoor overflow for gallery rentals complete with trees, metal sculpture and outdoor furniture.

Hidden Sculpture Courtyard Overflow for Gallery Event Rentals.

Hidden Sculpture Courtyard Overflow for Gallery Event Rentals.

Carnegie:

This main street has overcome challenges with severe flooding in 2004 and a pedestrian street close off  in the 1960’s.  This Main Street has a lot going for it in the short distance of 1200 lineal feet! Main Street extends further but looses the small continuous scale when the height of the top of buildings is broken with huge parking lot gaps and buildings set back from the sidewalk.

Carnegie Main Street Tour

Carnegie Main Street Tour

Carnegie Main Street Tour

Carnegie Main Street Tour

Small Scale is an Asset for a Main Street

Small Scale is an Asset for a Main Street

Tell the Story Even When the Store is Closed

Tell the Story Even When the Store is Closed

A historian walked with us detailing how Carnegie has always been a borough for tight knit ethnic groups.  The were unique place to eat like Riley’s Pour House, Cafe Delhi and one-of-a-kind favorites like Bacn.

Bring Something Unique

Bring Something Unique

Many of the historic buildings have been revitalized with dance studios, one single story building tucked in the middle of Main Street is The Flying Squirrel that is a nostalgic emporium where you can buy ice cream, candy and nostalgic toys like a 1970’s Chatter Telephone with the rolling eyeballs!

Nostalgic Shopping on Main Street

Nostalgic Shopping on Main Street

The Flying Squirrel has a great Facebook thread with updates on quirky happenings like Dr. Who showings and Harry Potter night. The signature event is the Carnegie Crawl every 2nd Friday of the month. Each crawl is different local businesses have special deals and refreshments and sometimes there is music in the streets.

Carnegie Crawl

Carnegie Crawl

Business owners who participate place a snail logo in their storefront window.

BuckeyeMain Street Coalition Review 2014-2015

Last Tuesday evening at the City of Buckeye Council meeting Ron Noble, President of Buckeye Main Street Coalition and Lara Serbin presented a year review before Mayor Meck and councilmembers.  The presentation included topics relating to Catalyst Grants for facade improvements, special events, branding and the National Main Street Convention in Atlanta, Georgia.  The request for MOU renewal was voted on and accepted by Mayor Meck and councilmembers.  Thank you to the City of Buckeye and community for supporting our efforts for next year! **Click the icon below to view the presentation.

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Main Street Learns from Madison, Georgia

By: Lara Serbin, Buckeye Main Street Coalition

Last month was the National Main Streets Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. The Buckeye Main Street Coalition members Jay Broadbent, Charlene Powers, Brian and Kristi McAchran and Lara Serbin were fortunate to attend this important event.   We had many opportunities to talk to others who are doing similar events, facade improvements and fundraising.  We saw a different perspective on how to improve historic downtown Buckeye.

The Omni Hotel hosted the conference with ongoing workshops and a trade show. Learning sessions included topics like crowdfunding, volunteerism, historic preservation, museums, festivals and engaging your community.

Mobile Workshops explored downtown districts located in and around Atlanta. City staff, Managers, Main Street volunteers and business owners lead walking tours and explained lessons learned regarding revitalization.  There are so many creative ideas that came from these tours.   Meeting other Main Street members was a significant way to affirm or re-examine how we do things.

Mixed-Use Infill

Mixed-Use Infill

I specifically went on the Madison, Georgia tour to learn how they revitalized downtown with community funding. Madison founded in 1809 is one hour from Atlanta and PGA Masters in Augusta and an active historic district with 600 buildings.  Exiting the freeway, the country road leading to Madison was welcoming with widely spaced historic homes. Mayor Perriman was there to greet us with a short and sweet introduction. Any place that has a coffee table book called Madison, A Classic Southern Town just speaks for itself.

Madison, GA New Town Park

Madison, GA New Town Park

The tour began at Madison Town Park that covered 2 blocks in the heart of the railroad industrial district. It was easy to find bearings quickly with the before and after photos posted on each corner.  There was so much to cover we zipped along from point to point.

New buildings that surround the Madison Town Park have either mixed-use with retail and residential or commercial.  Some of the buildings really looked historic even though they were new construction.  I couldn’t be fooled.  There were great efforts to reproduce by-gone historic landmarks within this park like the fountain was recreated from some pieces found from local citizens and across the country to match what was missing .  The fundraising goal in 2009 was $4.5 million which $2 million was raised completely by local citizens.

New Made to Look Historic

New Made to Look Historic

On either side of the park was mixed-use condos. First floor retail and two story condos in the back.  Architectural details were collected by Monica Callahan, Planning Development for the Downtown Development Association who sent developers stacks of photos of how she wanted the building to look.  She added value by exploring details from surrounding historic towns.

Loft Overlooking Town Park

Loft Overlooking Town Park

Inside the condos, spaces were tall and roof decks looked over the park. No condos can be leased. Another variation of this was across the park. Here the living lofts were on the 3rd floor of The James Madison Inn. One owner had a personal elevator from the lobby of the hotel to the living room of his home.  As we begin to develop design guidelines here in Buckeye these ideas from Madison will add to our understanding of mixed-use.

For more information: https://buckeyemainstreet.org/old-site/national-main-streets-conference-atlanta-2015/

National Main Streets Conference Atlanta 2015

Opening Ceremony Atlanta

Opening Ceremony Atlanta

By: Lara Serbin, Buckeye Main Street Coalition

Last month was the National Main Streets Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. The Buckeye Main Street Coalition members Jay Broadbent, Charlene Powers, Brian and Kristi McAchran and Lara Serbin were fortunate to attend this important event.   We had many opportunities to talk to others who are doing similar events, facade improvements and fundraising.  We wanted a different perspective on how to improve historic downtown Buckeye.  March 30 through April 1st was packed with learning sessions at the Omni Hotel. Below are some of the sessions offered:

The Museum on Main Street: The Smithsonian Comes to Town

A Rule Breakers Guide to Accessible, Sustainable and Economical Brick Streetscapes

 Understanding Today’s Sponsors, Matching their expectations to your needs

People Power: Engaging Your Community Members

Activating Space with Community Partnerships

Defining value in down town festivals and events

Crowdfunding for Public Spaces and Community Places

Mobile Workshops explored downtown districts located in and around Atlanta.  City staff, City Managers, Main Street volunteers and business owners took us on walking tours and explained lessons learned regarding revitalization.  There are so many lessons and creative ideas that came out of these tours.   Meeting other Main Street members was a significant way to affirm or re-examine how we do things.  We went to Atlanta to make our downtown Buckeye better.

Buckeye Main Street Coalition at Atlanta National Conference

Buckeye Main Street Coalition at Atlanta National Conference

 

Atlanta: Historic Downtown Tour

This tour was led by Paul Hammock, Director of Education at the Atlanta Preservation Center.  He took us to Five Points, Grant Park and Martin Luther King National Monument.  He pointed out the wall of mega buildings dividing circulation.   Many historic buildings have been demolished. As with any well developed urban core there have been preservation losses and few wins.  He took us to a 1950’s parking structure where the Victorian Kimball House Hotel the most beautiful hotel in Atlanta used to stand.

Kimball House Hotel, Atlanta, GA

Kimball House Hotel, Atlanta, GA

1950’s Parking Structure, replaced Kimball House Hotel

1950’s Parking Structure, replaced Kimball House Hotel

 

The biggest win for the city of Atlanta is the Fox Theater saved by the wrecking ball by the local citizens.  A 1928 lavish theater house with Egyptian and Moorish style interior, halls for dining and outdoor roof decks.

Fox Theater, Atlanta

Fox Theater, Atlanta

The Opening Plenary Session took place at the Fox Theatre and Buckeye Main Street Coalition held the Arizona sign proudly!  The most memorable stop was Grant Park, a mile south of downtown.  The Atlanta Preservation Center purchased Atlanta’s most significant and endangered house in Atlanta, the antebellum Lemuel P. Grant Mansion. Back in the day this house was king of the hill with acres of cotton. Now the single story is shoe horned among historic homes.   Inside the spaces there are artifacts like stair stringers propped up against the exposed thick walls resembling rammed earth walls of the southwest. Before Atlanta Preservation bought this place it looked like a Roman ruin with no roof and nature taking over. This building restoration gives gave me great hope for the Buckeye Historic Courthouse and Jail that is in such need of stabilization.

Lara Serbin at Atlanta Preservation Center

The original wood panel flank the tall window openings.   The last stop in the city core was the Martin Luther King National Monument Landmark.  Several city blocks are reserved for a museum, crypt, visitor center and the Ebenezer Baptist Church.

Martin Luther King National Monument

Martin Luther King National Monument

I sat in the church pew and listened to Dr. King to rest from taking photos.  The space had a simple interior and intricate stained glass.  It was a sacred space well cared for.

 

Tactical Urbanism: 10 Ways to Restore Your Downtown for $500 or Less

In between the mobile tours there were educational workshops. A huge drop cloth, stack of wood pallets and tools told me this was a hands-on 3 hour course.  There were 10 different Tactical Urbanism projects happening simultaneously.

Tactical Urbanism Workshop

Tactical Urbanism Workshop

Volunteers were asked to build things like a flower display and adirondack chair from wood pallets.  Even though a lot of it was staged like a cooking show on Food Network, it held my attention.  While volunteers were constructing, cutting and bolting the mediator was fielding questions like how to not get in trouble with the highway department after tagging bicycle symbols on downtown streets.

Powers and Sedig at Hands-On Workshop

Powers and Sedig at Hands-On Workshop

Tactical Urbanism Workshop

Tactical Urbanism Workshop

Maybe that is how most of us want to learn now, with chaos.  At the end of 3 hours the teams had constructed a “Parklet”, chairs set on top of a raised platform with movie screen backdrop.  I think most folks on Main Street organizations are finding ways to get their projects completed lighter, quicker and cheaper.  I walked away with ideas on how to make future workshops in downtown Buckeye more interactive and fun.

Monroe: Creating a Downtown Destination through Local Investors Tour

The road that leads to Monroe is flanked with grand mansions of the cotton era.   Monroe has its dark stories of segregated mass lynching in 1946 and current poverty,  but they acknowledge their past honestly and embrace agrarian roots with pride.  The historic downtown is vibrant with stores like Buckles Hardware, Little Italy’s Peppino’s Pizzaria and Rinse Bath & Body.

Monroe Historic Downtown

Monroe Historic Downtown

City officials, Main Street volunteers and buildings owners were there to greet us at The Wayfarer Music Hall a community space to lease. Lemonade, ginger cookies, vase of flowers and goodie bags made me realize the impact of  hospitality.   The owner of the building was there, she was a Monroe native and had rehabilitated the 1910 building into a vital community event center in the historic corridor. The first floor she leases out for events like rehearsal wedding dinners.  A second entrance opens to a flight of narrow wood stairs leading to The Wayfarer Hotel.

The Hotel is self sufficient without check in or full time staff.  The walls have exposed brick and original plaster. Even the coffee bar is a shared space.

The Wayfarer Hotel

The Wayfarer Hotel

The Wayfarer Music Hall

The Wayfarer Music Hall

She kept the improvements to the interior simple by only carving out what was necessary like a 3 compartment sink, hand wash station, ADA restroom and lockbox.  Made me think of Buckeye and how we could so use a space like this to host events.  It is a sign of the times to create a space that has an open ended use.

Keep Marching On with Faith, Hope and Love.  Dr. Martin Luther King