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SHARON Plan to revitalize gets fresh ideas



Published: Wed, February 27, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



A children's museum and a footbridge across the Shenango River were among residents' suggestions.

By HAROLD GWIN

VINDICATOR SHARON BUREAU

SHARON, Pa. -- More than 70 people came to city hall Tuesday armed with ideas to improve the downtown business district.

They responded to an open invitation from Mayor David O. Ryan to offer suggestions for a downtown revitalization plan the city is developing.

There were the expected appeals to make the Shenango River, which flows through the business district, a focal point of any revitalization effort and numerous calls for restoring the Columbia Theater on West State Street.

Suggestions that truck traffic should be out of the commercial district and that there should be a grocery store downtown were pleas that have been heard before.

But the group also had some new ideas.

Transportation: Joseph Baldwin of Columbia Street, a former city councilman, suggested the city run a shuttle bus continuously around the perimeter of the targeted district bounded by Connelly Boulevard on the south, Sharpsville Avenue on the east, Silver Street on the north and Irvine Avenue on the west.

Baldwin also suggested a footbridge across the Shenango River from Porter Way to Silver Street, providing direct access to the State Street area from the Penn State Shenango Campus across the river.

Youth-oriented: Bob Lucas of Hall Avenue, a former city firefighter, said the downtown should have something to attract young people. A place for rollerblading would be a good start, he said.

Ann Ryser, a retired schoolteacher who lives in Burghill, suggested a children's museum, and Bob Marosy of Second Avenue proposed building retail shop space in a now-vacant area on the southwest corner of West State Street and Water Avenue.

Steve Theiss of Jefferson Avenue said every effort should be made to make the downtown district "pedestrian friendly," complete with places to sit and relax.

One woman, who didn't give her name, suggested developing more apartments in the vacant upper floors of downtown commercial buildings; other people's suggestions included adding a museum of Sharon's history, restoring old architecturally beautiful buildings and removing blighted structures.

Parking: Councilman Lou Rotunno said more needs to be done with the municipal parking garage and suggested converting the top floor to medical office space.

Businessman James E. Winner Jr., who has done much on his own to revitalize the town, said the city needs to look forward and not try to turn the clock back.

"We have to decide who we are and what we want to be," he said, suggesting that focusing on the unique aspects of the town is the place to start.

No idea is too big or too small to be considered at this point, said Joseph Mazzola of E.G. & amp;G. of Akron, the consulting company hired to help put the plan together.

He said a plan should be ready to present to the city in six months, offering priorities and identifying potential funding sources.

gwin@vindy.com




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