Council finally decided to leave the $50,000 in and to invite Zoe Richards, director of Main Street Portsmouth, to address Council at the next meeting to explain the importance of the city’s investment in historic preservation. Richards says she will bring several people with her to Monday night’s Council meeting.
“What Main Street Portsmouth does is promote economic development through historic preservation,” Richards said. “For example, with the Capitol Improvement Project budget funds that we received from the city of Portsmouth last year, Main Street Portsmouth provided $25,000 worth of matching grants to property owners and business owners in the district. That generated over $170,000 worth of projects.”
Richards used as an example a roof project that might cost $14,000, became more affordable for the property owner when they received a $3,000 grant from MSP. Richards said the point that some people miss is that the project produced $14,000 worth of economic development, and, at the same time, preserved the historic integrity of the structure.
“Now, when you drive down Chillicothe Street, for example, and you look up on the second floor of the Cirque d’Art building there’s no longer painted plywood, there’s windows,” Richards said. “It sparks that level of pride for people to say, ‘hey, look how great that building looks I want to be a part of that.’”
Richards talked about the historic Candyland property as an example of a structure that is tied to the history of the city of Portsmouth, and specifically the downtown area.
“They just received Top Opportunity status from Heritage Ohio,” Richards said. “That is an anchor to our downtown. It is on the corner of Second and Market streets. That building needs to be preserved. The historic integrity of the property is beyond just the beautiful historic architecture. That is one of the projects Main Street Portsmouth has through the support of the City of Portsmouth.”
Richards said MSP also promotes the city through eco-tourism.
“We do things like work with the Portsmouth Murals Inc. and the Visitors Bureau to create walking maps,” Richards said. “And we have put up new urns along the Floodwall Murals. So when tourists come into our town, they drop dollars in our town. We are creating centers of activity. What Main Street does is like no other organization in our area.”
Johnson said he supports Main Street Portsmouth because it is “the only game in town.”
“I think without Main Street, you can just write off downtown,” Johnson said. “That is the only thing that I see that is really keeping it going. There is no other organization that exists solely and specifically for downtown.”
Johnson said there are grants that the city would not receive if it were not for Main Street Portsmouth.
Richards said it is important for residents to know the money MSP receives is from CIP funds, and not from the General Fund.
“We are not taking away from anything that is from the General Fund,” Richards said. “This is from the Capitol Improvements Project. This is for projects that make the city a better place.”