As the duties and goals of Westerville's Main Street Board come into focus, leaders from Heritage Ohio were in town last week to discuss the merits of the program and give Uptown leaders an idea of how it will operate.

As the duties and goals of Westerville's Main Street Board come into focus, leaders from Heritage Ohio were in town last week to discuss the merits of the program and give Uptown leaders an idea of how it will operate.

In September, Westerville City Council approved a $30,000 expenditure to join Heritage Ohio and establish the Main Street Board, which will serve as an advisory group focused on helping Uptown thrive.

A 14-member board has been assembled, with members representing Otterbein, Uptown merchants and a variety of other community members.

Members of Heritage Ohio's Downtown Assessment Resource Team were in Westerville Wednesday, Nov. 30, to survey the city and give leaders an idea of what priorities should be and how they can help. In presentations to those leaders, the Heritage Ohio team seemed optimistic.

Director of Revitalization Jo Hamilton said the city was "far beyond most communities when they come to us," and said the board and Heritage Ohio will be committed to a long-term look rather than reactionary decisions.

Meanwhile, she said, the newly formed board can begin to give a sense of unity.

"The Uptown doesn't just belong to merchants and property owners," she said. "It belongs to the whole community."

Amish Originals owner and Main Street Board member Doug Winbigler agreed.

"To this point, we haven't had a formal organization where we can all sit at the same table and listen to each other's ideas and needs and have an organization that can work on those ideas," he said.

For City Council member Larry Jenkins, who will represent council on the board, the idea of residents rather than city government running this enterprise is a positive one.

"This is our way, and a first step, of turning this over from a city-run initiative to a community initiative where the city is a partner ... and everybody has a voice and feels equal versus this being a city initiative," he said.

The music to merchants' ears came from Joyce Barrett, Heritage Ohio's executive director. She emphasized market analysis, business analytics and a "downtown business inventory" that will compile everything sold or offered in Uptown.

She also discussed the idea of helping Uptown businesses expand, and told merchants to aim high.

"Main Street is, at its base, an economic project," she said.

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