Downtown effort to get new life?
The Downtown Revitalization Committee is one small step closer to coming back to life following years of stagnation.
Last March, the planning commission voted unanimously to make the revitalization committee an ad-hoc, seven member advisory group under the wing of the commission. Since then, there have been no meetings or forward movement.
However, following prompting by Mayor Stephanie Scott, the commission recently appointed commission member Heather Lende to take on the issue.
The original revitalization committee was formed in January 2011 as the borough’s follow-up to its $40,000 downtown revitalization plan, completed in 2010.
Scott said she has been prompting the commission to get the ball rolling for months. Before being absorbed by the planning commission, the revitalization committee was already losing steam, Scott said.
“What happened was the downtown revitalization committee seemed stalled even though people say it wasn’t. I went to the last meeting they ever had and there were three people there,” Scott said.
Planning commission chair Rob Goldberg has expressed doubt if the commission made the right decision to bring the committee under the wing of the borough, as it seems to have quashed its effectiveness.
“Maybe that was a mistake,” he said. “Maybe we should have just left it as ad hoc on its own.”
“It was a committee that had a lot of energy and it was just open to anyone to come, and a lot of people came and things were happening and as soon as it became part of the borough structure and there were designated seats for different things, people lost interest and only five of the seven seats are filled,” Goldberg said.
Rusty Compass owner Lenise Henderson Fontenot, Buckshot and Bobby Pins owner Kristine Harder, Chamber of Commerce member Patty Campbell, Chilkoot Indian Association member Harriett Brouillette and planning commissioner Lende currently comprise the committee, though there are still two vacancies: another downtown business owner and a downtown resident.
Scott said she wanted the commission to appoint someone to create leadership for the committee. “It’s a group that’s not without direction. It’s without leadership. That’s what is missing,” Scott said.
Henderson Fontenot, who has led and organized the committee meetings in the past, said she has been in communication with Goldberg and hopes to hold an organizational meeting soon.
The meetings will likely take place at the Rusty Compass coffee shop on Main Street, she said.
The previous group’s efforts included launching a shop-at-home campaign, defining a downtown improvement district, advocating for improved signage, and addressing amenities like trash cans, benches and railings.