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Fairmont to discuss downtown

FAIRMONT — When

Cathy Reynolds became

Fairmont city administrator

five months ago, she held

several listening sessions at

various sites in the community.

In addition to the traditional

economic driver of

jobs, one topic repeatedly

cropped up: downtown revitalization.

“To me, this seemed like

a key priority to this community.

People kept talking

about downtown, more retail,

more events,” Reynolds said.

Knowing that other organizations

and individuals

have an interest in reviving

the area, Reynolds decided to

combine the effort by recruiting

Ned Koppen, president

of the Fairmont Area Chamber

of Commerce; Linsey

Preuss, Fairmont economic

development coordinator;

Blake Potthoff, executive director

of the Fairmont Opera

House; and Dayna Johnson,

a Fairmont resident with extensive

experience in downtown

revitalization.

“We’re facilitators. We

are not the group that is going

to revitalize downtown, but

we are facilitators for that

process,” Reynolds said.

The five-member squad

has compiled initial information

on the goals for

downtown and is now seeking

community input and

involvement. A public discussion

will be held on Nov.

19 at the Fairmont Opera

House. It is open to all interested persons. Bring your

lunch and your ideas. RSVP

at info@fairmontoperahouse.

org.

“We intend to give some

background information on

downtown revitalization, why

we’re doing this, why we’re

helping facilitate, and then

start to get information from

the community,” Reynolds

said.

“From this session, we as

facilitators will try and clump

some of those goals together.

Then we’ll have follow-up

sessions to work through it.

The end goal is to develop

a strategic action plan about

the different activities we can

do, as a community, to support

those goals, to help reach

those goals.”

Reynolds calls the downtown

area “the heart and soul

of a community.”

“And revitalization is the

key to that,” she said. “Let’s

revitalize downtown. Make

it that core of activity that

radiates throughout the community.

It creates that sense

of being, that sense of place,

which is huge for a community.”

Fifty years ago, downtowns

bustled with activity

as people visited the various

shops and attended activities

centered around the area.

Then consumers began gravitating

toward malls, pulling

their business away from

downtown areas. Fairmont

was not unique to this trend.

It occurred across the country.

“Now there’s a big push

to bring back downtowns,”

Reynolds said. “It’s what

people are looking at when

they drive through a community.

It’s what catches your

eye.”

The discussion session on

Nov. 19 will be a first step to

downtown renewal.

“This session is to start

getting those ideas so we can

develop some goals. People

want to be involved, want to

be engaged,” Reynolds said.

“The five of us can’t do all of

this. We are facilitating the

discussion, but we’re not the

ones who are going to dictate

what goes on here. We need

everybody’s involvement,

and everybody’s input so it’s

a true community project.”

Unifying the mission of

downtown rejuvenation is “a

lofty plan,” Reynolds says,

and a project that must be

done in baby steps.

“If we can show some

small positive things and

keep improving on it, then

every step is a good step

in the right direction. We

can build on that,” she said.

“That’s why it’s got to be a

community effort, not just a

city or a chamber thing. We

all have pieces we can bring

to the puzzle.”

For more information

about the revitalization effort,

contact Reynolds at creynolds@

fairmont.org; Koppen

at president@fairmontchamber.

org; Preuss at lpreuss@

fairmont.org; Potthoff at director@

fairmontoperahouse.

org; or Johnson at dayna.

lynn.johnson@gmail.com.

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