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Sewickley pledges $80,000 for Village Green

| Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

When organizers of the nonprofit marketing group Village Green Partners begin their new year in January, they'll do so with $80,000 in taxpayer money — the same amount Sewickley leaders approved for this year.

“$80,000 is a good number as we work on growing our other revenue sources,” Village Green co-founder Jennifer Markus said.

The nonprofit group — which began in 2010 — has worked to organize events such as Light Up Night and to draw shoppers to the business district.

In 2012, Village Green received $40,000 from the borough. Before that, the group received $25,000.

Markus said the group opted to not increase funding for 2014 because “we promised last year that we wouldn't.”

Unlike the current year and previous years, the nonprofit group will have achievement levels as agreed upon between the organization and borough leaders.

“We are working with the borough to come up with some performance metrics for Village Green for next year,” Markus said.

Plans for the metrics still are being ironed out, Markus said.

Among the metrics will include achieving a specific level of registering business owners as partners to the organization, Markus said.

The group set a goal to achieve 100 partners. At last count, Markus said the group has reached at least 65 members. The cost to join is $250 annually.

“We don't have 100 because we've been focusing a lot more on getting the word out about the Village,” the group's marketing director Alex DeLoia said.

Still, Village Green organizers say the year has been successful.

They note few empty storefronts as the business district enters the holiday shopping season, including the addition of some temporary retailers.

“Except for a few small locations, there won't be any empty storefronts for the holidays,” Markus said. “That's huge. Hopefully people notice.”

Sewickley Mayor Brian Jeffe attributed fewer empty storefronts to the group.

“There's no doubt their fingerprint is on the renaissance the Village is going through,” he said.

“Village Green is taking an active role to make (the business district) better.

“What used to be the role of the borough for coordinating events is going to them.”

New events included summertime Night Market events, a chocolate walk and a collaboration with organizers of the St. James farmers market.

Along with Light Up Night planned for Dec. 6, organizers say they want to attract shoppers on Wednesday nights and Saturdays during the holidays.

The group plans to kick off that initiative on Nov. 30 with Small Business Saturday — a nationwide effort to attract support for small businesses.

Organizers say they're efforts are working.

“Maybe it's not that day (of an event) that they're shopping, but it's definitely creating awareness,” DeLoia said. “People are coming back.”

While organizers say they're reaching beyond Sewickley to attract potential shoppers, they still find locals unaware of stores in the business district.

Part of what helps the business district is informing potential customers of what stores offer, DeLoia said.

“There's a lot of places in Sewickley that have exclusivity for different brands … their vendors won't sell to anybody else in Pittsburgh,” she said.

Organizers say their efforts for next year include diversifying funding and continuing to reach new potential shoppers.

“The point is to build the awareness of Sewickley and let people know it is here,” Markus said.

Bobby Cherry is an associate editor for Trib Total Media.

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