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Posted July 24, 2013 | comments Leave a comment

The future of downtown: Strasburg schedules meetings for public input

By Alex Bridges

It may take planning, public input and lots of meetings to revitalize downtown Strasburg.

The next stage in Strasburg's efforts to breath more life into downtown calls for officials to hold yet another meeting with stakeholders and residents. Officials are working on the Economic Restructuring Plan for the downtown over the next several months.

Economic Development and Planning Manager Kimberly Murray pointed out Wednesday that money the town expects to receive comes with some requirements. The awarding agency wants local governments that receive the funds to take time to plan out how they plan to spend the money. Murray pointed out the importance of holding public meetings as Strasburg plans the future of downtown.

"Well I think the purpose of the management team is to try to bring together a group of folks that hopefully represent the majority of the interests, so it is a public meeting in that sense," Murray said. "Also when you're using public money, either state or local funds, we have an obligation to be as open and transparent as we can and to gather as much input from the public as we can on what they'd like for their community and how best to use those funds."

Strasburg applied for a planning grant of $35,000 from the Department of Housing and Community Development to support the town's downtown improvement work, Murray said. The agency reserved $5,000 in planning grant funding for the town to cover some initial work on the plan through the end of August, Murray explained. That step prepares the town in its request for the full amount of the planning grant, she said.

Murray said officials intend to explain the process at the public meeting and what the town needs to do between now and Labor Day, as well as plans for the full application.

As Murray has explained, the grant award requires a high level of input from the community. The meeting scheduled for 5 p.m. Monday in Town Hall is part of that process. The grant calls for the town to create a downtown management team of stakeholders such as property owners, residents and media representatives. The town scheduled a meeting of the management team for Thursday night. That meeting also is open to the public.

A second meeting of the management team has been scheduled for Aug. 26 in order to present a draft of the material pulled together for the tasks that the state has required in preparation for the full grant, Murray said.

The management team may set another meeting to explain to the public what the group has developed up to that point, Murray added.

"In order to apply for grants or loans that the town could use to implement the Economic Restructuring Plan ... you have to go through this planning phase," Murray said. "You've got to show the state that you know how you're going to use the money to implement the work."

Murray explained that the team and the town plan to take the data and information gathered in the process, as well as look at a market analysis.

Recommendations for physical improvements downtown could include work on fa├žades or utilities, Murray said. Other suggestions may examine the best ways to use the vacant, retail spaces and to determine the niche markets for the town, Murray added.

The town could spend the implementation money on materials to market Strasburg, she said.

"It's another piece of the whole downtown revitalization mosaic," Murray said.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com


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