by Geoff Fox
The new Main Street Hancock group, which was created to help revitalize the downtown area, met last Wednesday to set up the document that will be allow them to become a member of Main Street USA.
The main purpose of the meeting was to work on bylaws and articles of incorporation and set up a board of directors.
Main Street Hancock will be recognized as a charitable and educational group and registered as a 501c3 organization.
As part of the bylaws, the purpose of the organization would be to “strengthen the existing economic base in Hancock while finding ways to expand it and to meet new opportunities offered by its unique location, history, natural resources, including but not limited to value added agricultural businesses, local services, retail sales, outdoor recreation, restaurants, and tourism.”
Accommodations, attractions, and hospitality were also mentioned in the bylaws as areas of business focus.
The bylaws will be finalized at a meeting later this month, said organizers.
Seven members will make up the inaugural board for the organization with an office space located at 3 Pennsylvania Avenue. That space was previously the law office of Jordan Lysczek.
Town Manager Joe Gilbert will serve as a government representative on the board, but won’t be a voting member.
“We don’t want the government to take over this and start running it almost like a government department,” Gilbert said. “That’s not the intent of this at all.”
Hancock Councilman Leo Murray, who was at the meeting to represent the town, raised the idea of having a billboard with a list of businesses in Hancock to entice people to get off Interstate 70.
Thomas Taylor said that’s the type of marketing the organization would have to do in the future.
That’s the goal and he added that into the articles of incorporation, Taylor said.
- Loren said the town is in a “killer location” with designated areas that will stay beautified when things start to get built up around Hancock.
“This isn’t some pipedream, this is a really nice location,” he said, noting with three major highways meeting in Hancock.
Murray said people from all over stop at the Bowles House and tell the volunteers how lucky they are to have the river, rail trail, and canal.
Diane Smith, owner of BuddyLou’s, suggested adding Berkeley Springs in the promotion because of what that town offers as well.
She said it would “create more of a reason for people to come to Washington County to spend the weekend or the week, even.”
Taylor, who wrote the organization bylaws, said creating an appealing public space in Hancock is key. He said that would include enhancing the appearance of Hancock’s traditional commercial district by rehabilitating historical buildings, supporting new construction, developing design concepts, assisting streetscape development and planning long term.
“This is about the environment of the public space,” he said, noting it’s what people see as they are walking down the street.
Every property and business owner would be responsible for what they present to the world and how it affects Hancock.
Taylor said if the plant boxes become overgrown with weeds and such, it gives off the impression the property or business owner doesn’t care.
He added before Martha’s House moved in next to his buildings, he was cleaning up the tree box in front.
“It’s not in front of my place, but, you know, a little guerilla gardening never hurt anybody,” Taylor said.
Streetscape development would be one of the core priorities for the organization.
Because businesses are all intertwined, whether for the tourist or local, Taylor said everyone would have to be involved by doing their own streetscape.
“We will fail if we don’t address that,” he said.
There was also a suggestion about setting up an historic district of town, which could raise property values 20%.
Right now there is only one historic district designation in the county and that is in Hagerstown.
Becky Rush said having such an ordinance for the town could prevent someone from putting a building into a viewscape that would be unwanted.
Taylor said the organization could request town officials develop the historic district.
Loren said some of the requirements for those historic buildings would require period materials for future renovations.
Representatives from Main Street Maryland are going to be traveling to Hancock to understand what the town is looking for.
Former Councilman Nigel Dardar brought up the fact there are a few storefronts where interior conditions are deplorable.
He wondered if those buildings would be addressed before those representatives arrived.
Gilbert used an analogy where the sick person goes to the doctor.
“If we were perfect, we wouldn’t need Main Street Hancock,” he said. “If we didn’t need revitalization, rehabilitation of our downtown business district, we wouldn’t need to exist.”
By presenting Hancock as it is and then spelling out what the vision of what they want Hancock to be, the organization can tell the representatives why they need the help.
As Dardar was describing past moments, Taylor cut him off by telling him the organization is looking forward, not back.
“They need to know why we need their help,” Taylor said.