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Business leader weighs in on Streetscape

By Staff | Feb 6, 2009

John Brady

Shepherdstown business owners are gritting their teeth and managing to hang on through the worst recession in years and the rattle and bang of major downtown sidewalk and curb upgrades.

The Shepherdstown Streetscape Committee met Jan. 26 at 7 p.m. at Town Hall to review the workmanship of the Shepherdstown Streetscape Project and allow the public and business owners to raise any concerns.

Shepherdstown Business Association President Meredith Wait recently met with project Manager John Brady about the status of work.

“He’s been very open to keeping the SBA in the loop, and I’m very appreciative of that,” Wait says of Brady, adding that this kind of communication is “encouraging the partnership that I’d like to see happen between the businesses and the town (government).”

There’s no perfect time for such a large project downtown, she says.

“The peak of tourist season is different for each business in town,” Wait says, noting the Christmas in Shepherdstown commerce was down for many shops in 2008. But some shops actually marked some growth in business.

“I think if we lose shops like we did in September, it’s not necessarily based on the economy,” Wait emphasizes, noting she knows at least one shop owner who decided to close because his father passed away.

For Wait and all downtown businesses, meeting the June target for completion of the Streetscape project is important. She conveyed to Brady that the Streetscape work crews need to continue to keep as much parking open as possible and maintain access to businesses. Wait says they have done a good job with that so far.

“It is very important that they not interfere with the business of the Contemporary American Theater Festival in July,” she says. “That’s our next concern – that they stay pretty true (to the completion date).

Wait said good things are happening in the nation’s capital, and the wave of optimism is bound to trickle down.

“I’m optimistic about the new administration in Washington,” Wait says. “I’m optimistic that we’re all ready to go to work. … It’s been a long year. But you know what, we’re all here. We’ve got great customers. We’ve got a great little town.”

Brady noted during the Jan. 26 meeting that there was a complaint from a resident that the older bricks taken up are not being used in the new sidewalks. Streetscape Committee Chairman Hank Willard noted while there was talk of reusing the old bricks that there was nothing in the blue prints and other documents about saving the old bricks. Older bricks from in front of Trinity Episcopal Church were solid enough to reuse, Brady has said.

Town Councilman Stuart Wallace noted some curbing still looks low and could cause runoff into the street. He also noted if a person stepped the wrong way out of The Tea Room, they could fall into the handicap ramp. Willard said he was noting of all the problems and would sit down with the designer to discuss them.

Committee member Pam Berry said she is not happy with the color of the new bricks, which is not quite the same as the old bricks. Willard assured her that the bricks were the same ones that were chosen before the project began.

Mayor Jim Auxer mentioned that he has asked town blacksmith Dan Tokar to do some design drawings for a railing to go with the handicap ramp. The mayor said that it could cost around $5,000 for the railing. A walking tour and inspection of the work done at the corners of German and Church streets was done Jan. 28. Committee members looked at the work that has been completed and decided that the committee should meet with designer Bruno Carvalho of Kimley Horn before the project goes much further.