City of Xenia close to Main Street designation

By Scott Halasz shalasz@civitasmedia.com

April 11, 2014

XENIA — The City of Xenia is inching its way to national Main Street designation.

And the final hurdle could be cleared next week when members of the Heritage Ohio Downtown Assessment Resource Team (DART) makes a two-day visit to check things out. If all goes well the city could earn the much-desired designation this fall if the DART folks like what they see.

“We’re super close,” said Mary Crockett, community development and downtown coordinator for Xenia, said. “It’s kind of a big deal.”

The city’s quest for Main Street status began in 2006 when DART first visited.

“At that time, the city, along with its private and public partners, was exploring ways we could encourage downtown growth and revitalization,” said City Manager Brent Merriman in a release from the city. “Since that informative 2006 visit, the city has developed and adopted a strategic plan for downtown. Now in 2014, the downtown has grown steadily with a number of trained volunteers and partners seeking tools and vision for taking downtown revitalization to the next step.”

Earning Main Street status will help.

“It puts us in a network to get recognition and get opportunities that tend to come through that program,” Crockett said. “It helps me as a community development block grant coordinator when I write grants to the state, we get more points. We get competitive point scoring if we’re a Main Street city. It helps us get other funding.”

Main Street managers from Piqua and Van Wert will be among the visitors next week to get a first-hand view at Xenia and make additional suggestions.

“They will be here, sleeping, eating and walking (around downtown),” Crockett said. “They don’t pull punches.”

There are certain requirements a city must meet in order to attain Main Street status. The most prominent missing link is having someone to run the whole operation.

“The biggest one that’s been holding us (back) is a Main Street manager,” Crockett said. “I think we have one. We’re about there.”

The manager, whose salary will be paid through private and public funding, will oversee all the aspects of the revitalization of downtown including marketing, rehabbing buildings, attracting new businesses and retaining current businesses.

“It’s hard,” Crockett said. “It’s a lot to do.”

But the end result will be worth the effort.

“It’ll help make downtown more viable,” Crockett said. “We want to be a place where you come in and say ‘Wow, I’m in Xenia and it’s cool.’ “

If official designation does happen in 2014, it would cap off the year in which Xenia celebrated its resiliency 40 years after the devastating 1974 tornado.

“I guess it’s just sort of fate,” Crockett said.

The DART visit begins at noon on April 17. Visitors will have time to independently walk around downtown after meeting with Mayor Marsha Bayless and City Manager Brent Merriman.

On Friday DART will make presentations to the community with suggestions on best practices. The city will also present a matching grant opportunity for design and code assessment to downtown building owners.