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Business Owners, Residents Want to Freshen Up Downtown Clarion’s Appearance
CLARION BOROUGH, Pa. (EYT) – Some local business owners and residents would like to see Clarion’s Main Street business district get a bit of a spruce-up, and according to borough officials, some changes are in the works.
exploreClarion.com spoke with some business owners and local residents along Main Street recently and found a wide variety of opinions on the current appearance of Downtown Clarion.
Some people think Clarion is in good shape just the way it is right now.
“I think visually, Clarion is pretty good,” said Daddy’s Main Street Dana Troese. “I think people think it’s got more going on than it does. They look at it and go, ‘Oh, what a quaint little town.’ Generally, I think it’s not bad.”
“Parking, of course, is another issue,” he added.
Local resident John Miller held a similar opinion, but also urged those who see problems to step up and try to be a part of the solution.
“Sure, there could be improvements on Main Street, but specifically, I don’t know, I don’t see anything and say, ‘Boy that’s horrible, somebody should do something about that.’ It always comes back to, if somebody should do something about it, you should be that somebody. It all takes money.”
“For example, I thought it was terrible that they knocked down the old building that the president of the university had first stayed in to make CVS. I hated the idea. But, at the same time, it’s like, did I do anything to try and get a bunch of people together to buy the building? And, if I had, what would we have done with it?”
“Right now, there’s nothing that really strikes me as terrible, and if there was, I’d try to do something about it.”
Local resident and pastor Deborah Jacobson was less concerned with the look of the district than the lack of foot traffic she sees.
“I’d just like to see more people and the businesses thriving better,” she said.
Local resident and attorney John (Jack) Troese was also focused on events, artwork, and attractions that could help bring more foot traffic downtown.
“I think the appearance is fine, it’s the activities we need. Since towns have been going out of style, they have had to become walking malls, sort of, just things to bring people downtown to walk around with their families, things to look at. They’ve done a few things. I think there was an attempt with the sidewalks with the painting, and other things in that direction: the art, the thing that Nick Cherico did with the history [signs]. Those are all things in the right direction,” he said.
Ann Landes, owner of Michelle’s Cafe, would like to see more beautification efforts by business owners.
“I would like to see more people get flowers up on Main Street. I see Jimmy [Crooks] put a beautiful window box up. We have our flowers, but we could do so much more. A window box, a hanging plant, whatever works in front of your business.”
“We have those small flower pots on Main Street, but I’d like to see some substantial ones. I think we could get them donated, and…maybe (if) the boy scouts were watering them, or the community groups. Or, we could all take responsibility for what’s in front of our places. I mean, what’s it take to water a plant? Just water and feed it a little bit,” she said.
“That’s always been a campaign of mine. We get so many travelers in the summertime, and they’ll stop and say, ‘Your flowers are just so beautiful, we had to come in.’ We could get flowers, more flowers, on Main Street and make it much prettier in the summertime because we are a tourist stop. We have Cook Forest, we have people coming off of I-80, people from Ohio and Pittsburgh, and that would be my big thing.”
“I know I’ve been to different meetings, and they talk about doing this, and that, and I’m thinking we just need to make our Main Street presentable. I see there’s a tree over here with lights hanging off of it, there was a flag in front of the Loomis that was half torn that needed to come down. I just think it would take very little responsibility from each business to get flowers, take the lights off the tree, just small things.”
Jim Crooks, owner of Crooks Clothing, seemed to agree, saying, “I feel that business owners have a real responsibility to keep their property clean. There’s so much we all can do. I like to do something every year, this year we added that outside wrought iron flower box underneath the Dancer’s Shop.”
“Each one of us can make a difference. We can’t always depend on the borough. It’s the easiest thing in the world to complain. I’m trying my best to be part of the solution and not a complainer.”
“If you see there’s litter, pick it up. If you see that somebody’s not picking up after their dog, pick it up. Everyone can make a difference. So, that’s what I’ve been asking myself: what can I do?”
“I know they’re talking about new benches, but I just bought a quart of red paint, I’m going to paint my bench out front. They’re talking about getting new ones, but I don’t think they have the help at the borough anymore, the amount of help, that we used to have. When we, when the borough, lost Owens Illinois, we lost a huge tax base. And so, the borough has had to adjust for a whole lot less revenue. Nobody wants to raise the taxes, and everybody wants the services, but you can’t have it both ways.”
“I pick up litter, all the time, every single day. That’s just how everyone needs to participate.”
Dave Estadt, owner of Dan Estadt Sports, also noted, “Things aren’t swept up all of the time, but that depends on the individual business owner. When I say sweeping out, it’s more like some of the bars, when you walk by them, there are cigarette butts all over the place, that kind of thing.”
Estadt also brought up another issue of concern noted at some previous borough meetings.
“One thing is the trees. The trees are in such bad shape, some are cut down, some are not.”
“I think, for the most part, the properties all look pretty good, but I don’t know what they’re going to with the trees. I hope they’re going to put in decent trees that will look good.”
“Overall, I think Main Street looks pretty good, it’s just, the more businesses you get, the better,” he added.
Jim Crooks also mentioned concerns about the trees along Main Street and some possible changes in the future.
“I understand the borough is working on a plan and has received a grant for downtown, and they’re talking about replacing and maybe re-engineering some of the places for trees.”
“Trees really add so much to a downtown, and I’m so glad the borough did get rid of the trees that were dead. That was such an eyesore. If anything’s worse than not having a tree, it’s dead trees. Hopefully, they’ll come up with a plan.”
exploreClarion.com checked in with Clarion Borough Treasurer Todd Colosimo on the status of the plans for the trees downtown.
Colosimo explained, “We receive a community development block grant allocation every year. Right now, as a condition of using that grant, we’re completing an environmental review of that project. And, the project we have envisioned is a multi-year. We’ll probably use several years of funding, or parts of several years, it’s not determined yet, to make various improvements to Main Street in the public arena.”
“The big one right up front is the installation of new trees and benches; that’s kind of the big push right now. Going on into the future, we’re going to be looking at a lot of other things. This is all public infrastructure and things that we own now that we can improve and make better. Trees, benches, and trash receptacles are the big things right now that are a priority,” he said.
Colosimo went on to explain that the borough is currently nearing the end of their environmental review, which is scheduled to be completed by the end of June. Once the review is complete, they can begin design work and procurement.
“My hope is to have this part of the project done by fall of this year. I’m not sure how it will play out, but I’m hoping to have this stuff in by winter, basically,” he said.
“One of the things with our tree wells on Main Street that we’re finding out is that we have varying conditions: some are very dry, some are very wet, some are in shade, some are in sun. It really depends on where you’re at.”
In terms of other projects, and possibilities for the future, Colosimo said, “We’ve had offers from the public to do some things, and we have ongoing efforts by some groups, you know flower planters and things like that, but right now our CDBD effort is our biggest thing we’re doing there.”
“After this phase, we want to take a look at our electrical system up there. The borough has an electrical system, basically, we have outlets in those tree wells, and we’re looking at making improvements to that overall system. They run our Christmas decorations and lights and things up there, independent of businesses’ electrical, and it’s kind of worn out,” he said.
“The sound system is something that we want to look at, too. The speaker system may not be an eligible cost, but we may be able to get some other funding for that. That’s potentially a pretty big project.”
He also noted there are some other local organizations working on projects to improve the visual appeal of our downtown district.
“The Blueprint organization has done some things with public art, and they’d like to do more, working with the high school and things like that. It would be nice to get some sculptures and some more paintings and things like that. They’re trying to get more things underway.”
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