Last week, I wrote a bit about Main Street Point Pleasant’s accomplishments, but that begs the question… What are we planning next? Quite a bit, I’m excited to say.
This is as good a place as any to announce my hiring as assistant director, to be executive director after current director Charles Humphreys’ retirement. So in the coming years, like my annual “State of the Society” with updates on the historical society, expect an occasional “State of Main” article for Main Street.
For those of you who don’t know me or are new to my articles, I’ve spent the last five or so years working on my B.A. and M.S. in Historic Preservation, volunteering and then interning with the National Park Service, and traveling most of the eastern half of the country. As a young man who originally wanted to get as far from West Virginia as possible, those travels, from Vermont to Louisiana, made it plain to me that Point Pleasant has more potential than most of the big cities I stayed in or historic sites I visited.
By the time everything is said and done, I don’t see why West Virginia shouldn’t be as much a tourist’s dream as Vermont or Florida, and I see no reason why we can’t rival Harpers Ferry and the New River Gorge as a premier destination! We have plenty of opportunities for recreation, we’re about to have five museums (yeah, five!), and we have a gorgeous and booming downtown (and it’s only going to get better!). That, like I’ve wrote about over the last two weeks, is Main Street’s mission. So, what are we up to right now?
Our main project right now is the rehab of the former Fisher Building and construction of a new Waterfront Farmers Market, and we’ll be starting construction on that in the coming months! For an idea of what it will be, think Huntington’s Central City Market or Charleston’s Capitol Market, though obviously on a smaller scale to fit our city. This’ll give the farmers market a modern sheltered space in the heart of downtown, and I think that’ll be a major boost for both their sales and our businesses.
Our other big project, one that’ll probably take some time to get set up but a priority if we’re going to continue developing downtown, is a low-interest revolving loan fund for historic buildings. I’m currently looking into several sources of potential funds for this fund, so I’m hoping to have a plan finalized and start working on it by this spring.
Thirdly, grants and projects that better our city are Main Street’s mission, but we can’t carry out that mission without an operating budget for the organization. An annual appropriation from the City, generous donations from the Krodel Christmas Fantasy, and funds raised at our usual Sleighbell Ball (cancelled this year) all go a long way in paying the bills, but that still typically leaves us operating on a shoestring budget. To safeguard the organization’s operations and improve our ability to match major federal grants, we’re going back to our roots. Way back in 1989, Main Street Point Pleasant started with a membership and sponsorship program, and even today, that is how most Main Street programs nationwide support their operations. More on that next week, because that’s an article by itself.
We’re also working on several grants for the Kisar-Kincaid House, including a feasibility study to finally chart a long-term plan for the historic building, and planning several visual improvements in the historic district, including a few new murals and an arch or two. Relatively low-cost, these little improvements just make our downtown a more inviting and attractive space and leave tourists with a better first impression, and that’s the key to them coming back again and again.
…It’s going to be a busy year, that’s for sure! And, these are only the projects we’re working on right now. There are several other exciting projects being planned for two, five, ten years out, but that’s an article for another time. We’re working on finalizing our ten-year plan with input from a few other organizations, and once we do, I promise a full article of Main Street’s hopes and dreams for the next decade. Until next time.
Chris Rizer is the president of the Mason County Historical & Preservation Society and assistant director of Main Street Point Pleasant, reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org