Wellsburg revitalization group sets goals

WELLSBURG — The Downtown Wellsburg Revitalization Group is exploring ways to attract new businesses and visitors to the city’s downtown business district, including capitalizing on its assets in an online video, offering incentives for the development of vacant buildings and improving the city’s overall appearance.

At a meeting Wednesday at the Station Grille, committees were formed to plan the addition of some form of artwork to vacant storefront windows, a community event on the Town Square and a community cleanup in the areas of Charles and Main streets between 6th and 12th streets.

Many of the details must be worked out, but music, a wine or beer tasting event and a car show were among suggestions offered.

Some noted positive responses to First Friday events held in the downtown areas of Steubenville and Wheeling recently.

Susie Mullenbach, who is organizing the cleanup, said she plans to approach local youth for help with the effort, which will involve pulling weeds, sweeping up dirt and debris and collecting litter, and is tentatively set for late August.

She said to show appreciation to participants, the cleanup may be followed by a cookout at a local park.

Tim Pierce, a member of the group involved with commercial video production, suggested creating a short video showcasing the city for display on social media and a possible website for the group.

Paul “Bud” Billiard, a member of the Brooke County Economic Development Authority, said a vacant lot at the corner of Sixth and Charles streets could be turned into a small park to attract visitors.

He and others commented on the city’s overall appearance and cozy, small town atmosphere as well as its proximity to the Ohio River.

But some also lamented the presence downtown of several vacant buildings.

Norm Schwertfeger, vice chairman of the Brooke County EDA, noted the city’s urban redevelopment authority is working to raze those that are dilapidated but the volunteer group can work to fill the structurally sound ones.

A committee was formed to approach city leaders, bank officials and others about possible incentives or assistance that could help encourage renovations to buildings and development of businesses there.

Larry Swanson, president of the Wellsburg group, said that could mean a tax break from the city, low interest loan from a local bank or other measure.

Alex Weld, the group’s vice president, shared a report summarizing ideas shared by more than 40 area residents who attended a public forum held by the group in June.

Weld said the group is one of three being considered for participation in the West Virginia Community Development Hub and expects to know whether it’s been accepted by Monday.

Funded by a mix of public and private grants, the state agency provides technical assistance to communities in planning public events and projects, securing funding for them and involving the public.

Weld said even if the group isn’t selected, members have received helpful information about other resources while meeting with a Hub official earlier this week.

Swanson said everyone’s input and effort is needed to revitalize the downtown business district.

“Its’ got to be an all out effort to make this successful,” he said.

(Scott can be contacted at wscott@heraldstaronline.com.)

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