Like the little engine that could, Sheila Dugan has taken the throttle of the Pottstown Downtown Improvement District Authority (PDIDA) and is chugging uphill toward her vision of a revitalized central business district.
Unlike Main Street Managers in the past, this dynamo hit the ground running and is pulling PDIDA into the 21st century at warp speed. The PDIDA board has been reorganized, assessments are being collected, activities are being scheduled and a new cooperation is being fostered between PDIDA, borough hall, PAID, the TriCounty Community Network and other entities in Pottstown.
Sheila actually lives in Pottstown, is a downtown business owner (she and her husband own Grumpy’s) and her children attend the Pottstown School District. Sheila is INVESTED in Pottstown (a missing component in past Main Street Managers).
The perception of business owners in the downtown, by the general public, is poor. Sheila is trying to raise awareness that most businesses downtown are Mom and Pop operations. In many cases, one owner, one employee. Trying to “do it all” six days a week from open to close does not leave much time for people to attend PDIDA meetings (or much of anything else).
To combat the time problem, Sheila has come up with an innovative solution – block captains. The block captains will talk with their assigned business owners and attend the meetings to speak for the group they represent. The block captains will then convey the meeting results back to their group. Email is also being used to keep PDIDA members updated, in addition to block captains and meetings.
Sheila has been working closely with the Pottstown Police Department and Borough Manager Mark Flanders toward a solution for the vagrant problem downtown. Sheila said Mark Flanders and the Pottstown Police Department have been extremely helpful and cooperative in working toward a solution for this problem. You will see more police officers downtown walking a beat along with other measures that are aimed at making the downtown clean, safe and a welcoming atmosphere for shoppers, arts and restaurant patrons.
PDIDA is also working with the numerous social services agencies in Pottstown. These agencies will also play a role in managing the homeless and idle population that have been congregating downtown and hampering revitalization efforts.
Sheila works hand-in-hand with Pottstown Area Industrial Director Executive Director Steve Bamford to help market Pottstown and fill empty store fronts with new businesses. She said Steve Bamford has been great to work with. Marketing Pottstown is not an easy job.
Another important cooperative effort taking place is between the Pottstown Codes Department and PDIDA. Every building within the PDIDA zone is being reviewed and code violations are being identified where they exist. Clean and safe buildings are certainly more appealing to consumers!
Like many organizations, PDIDA has lost a large percentage of its funding. Sheila said individual and corporate sponsors are desperately needed as well as volunteers. For example, the PDIDA office downtown needs volunteers to help staff the office. Sheila is also working on fundraising efforts and is applying for grants to help fund events and projects.
While we are on the subject of funding and budgets, Sheila is Pottstown’s official Main Street Manager but receives only a fraction of the salary the former managers were paid. This is due to the loss of funding from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development for the Main Street Program. Pottstown is fortunate to have someone willing to take on this herculean task, put in the time, do the hard work and get results on a shoestring budget.
One last thing before I give you a list of upcoming events downtown. A while ago, one of my readers asked me if the façade program was still in existence. I emailed the former Main Street Manager, identified myself and posed my reader’s question. I never received the courtesy of a reply. I asked Sheila about this during our conversation and she told me that the façade program does indeed still exist and there is still money available.
Some exciting PDIDA events to look forward to include:
June 8 – 2nd Annual Iron Horse, motorcycle show
June 20 – Rumble Downtown (includes Misty May-Treanor and live music).
July 20 – 2nd Annual Sidewalk Sale
October 12 – 6th Annual Riverfest – PDIDA is taking on this event and adding an evening component from 6pm – 8pm which will include live bands, artists, beer garden, a Bike/Art event and a TriPAC show at 8pm. Downtown restaurants will be participating.
Sheila said she is always looking for participants, live music, artists and street performers for PDIDA events. I will again put in a plug for individual and corporate sponsors.
The Pottstown Visitors Center aka the PDIDA office is located at 17 North Hanover Street in downtown Pottstown. The phone number is (610) 323-5400. Sheila Dugan is the Main Street Manager and her direct line is (484) 948-6061. The website is http://downtownpottstown.org/