Butler Downtown earns accreditation

| Saturday, May 11, 2013, 7:56 p.m.

Nonprofit group Butler Downtown earned accreditation from the National Main Street Program for its work to revitalize the city's Downtown business corridor.

“This will definitely help us with applying for grants,” said Chelynne Curci, main street manager for Butler Downtown. “This says we are following the program the way it was designed to work, and we are seeing results.”

The organization is operating on “community contributions” while it awaits $65,000 from the state through the Department of Community and Economic Development, she said. The money had been approved under a five-year contract with the state dating to 2008, according to department records.

Curci said that the organization's goal is to “become self-sustaining,” and not depend on state money.

A state affiliate, the Pennsylvania Downtown Center, evaluates Butler Downtown each year. It looks at criteria including mission development, fostering public-private partnerships, tracking economic progress and preserving historic buildings.

“Accredited Main Street programs are meeting the challenges of the downtown in the economy head on and are successfully using a focused, comprehensive revitalization strategy to keep their communities vibrant and sustainable,” said Valecia Crisafulli, acting director of the National Main Street Center.

Butler Downtown has one paid employee, Curci, and about 100 volunteers, with an annual budget of about $100,000.

Curci noted that several retail establishments have opened recently on Main Street. Other businesses, including two breweries, are planned. Established businesses, including Dittman Eyecare, Inc. and Heritage Elder Law & Estate Planning, have done renovation work.

“New businesses spur old businesses to keep things fresh,” Curci said.

The group also organizes concerts, and closes part of West New Castle Street in the summer for events and lunchtime dining.

“It takes years to really get things thriving, but I think we're doing really well,” Curci said.

Butler Mayor Maggie Stock said that an economic restructuring committee, one of several committees under the Main Street program, helped implement a plan, approved by council, that lowered the city's 7-mill business privilege tax for new businesses.

“They have done a tremendous job in making the city look good, and encouraging business at the same time,” Butler Mayor Maggie Stock said. “I'm very glad they got recognized for how good they are.”

Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or bvidonic@tribweb.com.

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