Canonsburg business district revitalization project seeks cash
If an award-winning effort to revitalize Canonsburg's central business district is to survive, private funders will have to step forward, borough officials say.
The borough's nonprofit Main Street program, entering its sixth year, received about $20,000 from the borough and about $30,000 from the state last year. This year's $4.4 million municipal budget, which included a 1-mill tax increase, slashes funding for the program, which won a “Townie Award” for promotions and marketing from the nonprofit Pennsylvania Downtown Center.
Main Street's future has been in doubt since manager Nadeen Steffey resigned in October to take a job with the Erie Chamber of Commerce.
“Nadeen did a very good job promoting Canonsburg. We need to continue that,” borough manager Terry Hazlett said.
Some borough officials “never really grasped” that funding from the state was intended only to kick-start the program, Steffey said.
“If the municipality is not backing it financially, how can the community as a whole back it?” she asked. “What we began there shouldn't be let go.”
The state's funding for the program was always set to expire after 2012, but it offered money for a “bonus” year in 2013, Hazlett said. Without a Main Street manager in place, however, the borough cannot get the money.
Hazlett said a private entity is considering whether to provide the local funding. He declined to provide details.
“I'm not sure what will or won't happen,” Hazlett said.
Five local banks also contributed to the program annually, he said.
Council President John Bevec said the nonprofit organization overseeing Main Street, the Our Town Cooperative, will remain intact.
The cooperative helps nurture community events, such as the borough's annual Fourth of July celebration, which attracts about 50,000 people to the town of about 9,000, and Oktoberfest.
“Without those events, people don't come to town, and it starts a downward spiral,” Hazlett said.
Board Chairman Jan Taylor could not be reached for comment.
Bevec said a partnership with the Canonsburg Chamber of Commerce is a possibility.
Steffey organized the “Blast Before the Fourth” concert and heavily promoted the chair-decorating event, which played off residents' penchant for placing chairs along the street days before the parade. She was a board member of America's Pop Music Hall of Fame committee — the hall is in a temporary location in the borough until more funding is secured — and was instrumental in the two-day event marking Perry Como's 100th birthday last spring.
Anthony Covey, whose GunTown Boards skate shop opened in Canonsburg in May, said the Main Street program helped him get the business off the ground.
“They set up a grand opening with the mayor and council and took pictures,” Covey said. “They got us a lot of exposure.”
Rachel Weaver is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7948 or firstname.lastname@example.org.