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Main Street Facelift

Main Street Facelift

Revitalization efforts breathe new life into Waynesboro District

Two years ago, downtown Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, had nearly two dozen empty storefronts on Main Street, according to Andrew Sussman, president of the Arts Alliance of Greater Waynesboro. Today, most of those storefronts have been filled thanks in large part to a revitalization initiative Sussman founded in summer 2013 called Destination ARTS! 

With a large group of dedicated volunteers supporting the initiative, the goal initially was to transform seven of the empty commercial buildings into pop-up art galleries that would last for 15 weeks over the summer, Sussman said. The group also hosted live music, children’s activities, and artist demonstrations on Main Street every weekend—and it was all free and open to the public.

It’s clear today that Destination ARTS! was overwhelmingly a success, for even though it was meant to be temporary, it’s still going strong. “It was just so successful that it never stopped, so we’ve been running it for three years now,” Sussman said. 

Destination ARTS! isn’t the only thing Waynesboro has going for it. With support from community members, businesses, and organizations like Mainstreet Waynesboro Inc. and the Waynesboro Community Theatre Project Inc., the borough is well on its way to becoming one of the most vibrant downtown districts in the region.

‘A Growing Arts Community’

Destination ARTS! has helped spur economic development downtown over the last two years, according to Scott Hershberger, director of economic development for Mainstreet Waynesboro, an organization that’s been dedicated to revitalizing downtown Waynesboro since 1996. “Some of the businesses that have moved in over the course of the past two years are a direct result of Destination ARTS! because their owners were encouraged by the revitalization effort and wanted to be part of a growing arts community,” Hershberger said. 

Today, Destination ARTS! boasts five permanent art galleries showcasing paintings, photography, ceramics, jewelry, and more from more than 80 artists. Visitors to Main Street can still enjoy live music on the square every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (weather permitting). The initiative also hosts quite a lot of arts-related activities, such as a children’s scavenger hunt, and free events like the Waynesboro Wine Walk coming up on September 12. 

Downtown visitors also can check out temporary “pop-up” galleries like Destination Innovation, which runs from Aug. 28 through Sept. 6 and showcases technology including robotics, drones, 3D printing, and more. 

 

Showing Support

While Destination ARTS! has played a major role in revitalizing the downtown district, Mainstreet Waynesboro has been encouraging growth and vitality through events that bring both residents and visitors downtown—like the annual Market Day street festival coming up on Oct. 3 and the first-ever Waynesboro Brewmaster Beer Festival held back in May. According to Hershberger, the beer festival was such a huge success that it will likely become an annual event.

The organization also offers support to downtown businesses and property owners through its facade grant program, which offers them funding to help make improvements to the facades of their buildings. Mainstreet Waynesboro also spearheaded the project to replace the town’s welcome signs and is leading the mission to get Waynesboro added to the National Register of Historic Places. 

To reach that goal, last fall Mainstreet Waynesboro mailed letters to members of the community requesting donations toward the $13,000 needed to hire a historic preservationist to complete the application process for the town to be considered for the National Register. “Sure enough, we got the money within a week,” Hershberger said. “People said they really wanted to see Waynesboro registered so it didn’t take long.” Carrie Giauque of C & K Historic Consulting is currently working on completing the application.

 

Reviving a Town Treasure

Support from members of the Waynesboro community has been crucial to the revitalization process, especially when it comes to the town’s next big attraction: the soon-to-be reopened Waynesboro Theatre. In late June, members of the nonprofit Waynesboro Community Theatre Project kicked off a fundraising campaign to raise the $650,000 needed to purchase and renovate the old theater, which closed its doors last year. As of Aug. 14, more than $550,000 had been raised, according to Hershberger, who’s also vice president of the Waynesboro Community Theatre Project. 

“A lot of people are very excited about the theater,” he said. “We’ve had both people who live in town and people who used to live in town and remember going to the theater as kids make donations. Even though they don’t live here anymore the theater still holds a special place in their hearts.”

While the Waynesboro Community Theatre Project is purchasing the building itself, the new Waynesboro Theatre will fall under the umbrella of High Rock Holdings LLC, which also is the parent company of the Leitersburg Cinemas. As part of this partnership, High Rock Holdings will be contributing about $250,000 to supply the Waynesboro Theatre with all the state-of-the-art equipment it needs, such as a projector, a new sound system, and of course popcorn machines, according to Rich Daughtridge, president and CEO of High Rock Holdings. 

The new Waynesboro Theatre is slated to open sometime in October and will show both first- and second-run movies, Daughtridge said, adding that the theater has already confirmed it will be showing the new “Star Wars” movie in December. “We’re really excited about it,” he said. “I think we’ll have a huge turnout for that—and all those people will be coming to downtown Waynesboro.”

 

Learn more about what’s happening in downtown Waynesboro by visiting  www.mainstreetwaynesboro.org and www.artsalliancegw.org.

 

- Missy Sheehan is a freelance writer and copy editor living in Martinsburg, West Virginia. See her work at www.sheehanwriting.com.

 

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