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With the new year, a downtown organization has a new president and a busy schedule ahead.
The Downtown Wapakoneta Partnership (DWP) recently named Judie Presar as their president during this month’s annual dinner meeting on Feb. 12. She said there are many items on the agenda for this year, as the organization continues to grow since it’s establishment a few years ago.
“We are making a push for the community to partner with downtown,” Presar said. “Downtown is the heartbeat of the community.”
The mission of DWP is to encourage, enhance and promote a viable, social and economic downtown.
New this year for the DWP is a volunteer group, which is made up of people who will help with various projects.
Last year, members of the DWP Board presented an idea to Wapakoneta City Council for the city to make a financial commitment to the future of Wapakoneta historic downtown by allocating $10,000 per year for the next three years to a project, called the Façade Improvement Program.
“This kind of program not only emphasizes DWP’s commitment to be a resource for business owners, but encourages a public-private partnership to invest in downtown, the heart of our community,” former DWP President Dianne Knipp said.
This program is intended to encourage building renovations that address blighting conditions by offering financial incentives to property owners who improve the exterior appearance of their downtown Wapakoneta buildings within the guidelines outlined in the program.
“We have to keep the appearance up and conducive to downtown shoppers, for businesses and building owners,” Presar said. “It’s demanding.”
The Façade Improvement Program asks applicants to fill out an eligibility application, which will be assessed by a review board, which is another group DWP plans to form this year.
Wapakoneta City Council Finance Committee members agreed to set aside $10,000 in the city’s 2013 budget for the Façade Improvement Program proposed by DWP in September. There will not be separate legislation, but they intend to set aside the $10,000 each year for the next three years as part of the budget process. This was decided upon at a Feb. 13 special committee meeting.
The program would require a 50 percent match from the property or business owner, and the grant could not exceed $10,000 and the grant money would not be released until the improvements were completed and DWP staff would monitor to make sure the work is in compliance with the program, noted in an earlier printed news story in the Wapakoneta Daily News.
A long-term goal for the DWP is to fill every space in downtown Wapakoneta, Presar said.
“It’s about partnering to keep shops alive,” Presar said.
DWP has a board of nine members, and their goal is to pair building owners up with people who are wanting to start a business or bring a business to Wapakoneta.
DWP has a busy summer with “Party in the Parkway.” This summer, instead of a gathering at the parkway in Wapakoneta with live music and beverages, downtown Wapakoneta shop owners will keep their businesses open later to accommodate shoppers on evenings in conjunction with “Party in the Parkway.”
In addition, they will be working with volunteers for the annual street sale during the Summer Moon Festival in July. New details are in the works for the guidelines of the street sale.
“It’s keeping us really busy,” Presar said. “We have more planned than we ever had.”
A Decorative Arts Committee is another committee formed through DWP, and this group takes care of seasonal artwork along with permanent artwork displayed in the downtown area, along with other decorative projects.
Presar said Jodie Goodwin, owner of Fern Hill Farmhouse, and Laura Clementz, co-owner of Casa Chic, are a big part in helping to decorate for holidays, along with painting scenes on buildings. Goodwin painted the pumpkins and snowmen that were displayed in the parkway area in downtown this past fall and winter, and Clementz has been painting scenes on buildings, including the backdoor of a shop that faces Auglaize River in downtown.
DWP also partners with the Wapakoneta High School Art Club, and the students work on murals to place in second floor windows to help spruce up the appearance of the downtown.
The Art Club, DWP and building owners work together to select a theme for the artwork, and currently there are murals above Your Jewelry Box, Riverside Art Center and Thrifty Treasurers.
DWP plans to do a fundraising campaign, similar to the YMCA’s annual campaign, where they will do a mailing list of community residents.
Also, a shopping spree will be held again this fall to raise funds for the organization.
In addition to goals, one long-term goal Presar noted is to make downtown Wapakoneta not only a place to shop, but a place to live.
“Our long-term goal is to occupy apartments downtown and make it a place to live, not only just for small business owners,” Presar said.
Presar said she believes downtown Wapakoneta is the “heartbeat of Wapakoneta,” and DWP is all about keeping the heartbeat going.
“It’s about partnering to keep the shops alive,” Presar said.
Another long-term goal is to put a clock downtown.
“We had a clock in the past and want to bring that back,” Presar said.
Presar, who is a lifelong resident of Wapakoneta, has a passion for the downtown community and she wants to keep it alive.
“I just enjoy working with the public and I love to volunteer, and I can’t think of a better place to do it,” Presar said.
Presar is a 1963 graduate of Wapakoneta High School, and was a cheerleader in high school.
“I am still a cheerleader for Wapak,” Presar said.
The future of DWP looks bright, Presar said.
“We will continue to support downtown business owners and businesses and continue to be a viable business opportunity,” Presar said. “We will always keep the businesses full of business.”
If the club can continue to meet that goal, Presar noted this will encourage youth to invest in business and buildings in the future, and to keep the spirit of downtown alive.
“We want to have downtown alive and vibrant,” Presar said. “Working together is key to keeping the downtown alive.”