Seymour Main Street has begun wrapping up a successful year and making plans for a busy 2016.
Last Thursday, the organization closed out its popular Silver Sandhills of Seymour exhibit in the old Knights of Pythias building at 103 N. Chestnut St. in downtown with a special members event.
The standing-room-only crowd was treated to Asian hors d’oeuvres and a performance by local violinists Shosei Ando, a Seymour High School student, and his mother, Ellie.
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During the event, Scott Burgins, senior project manager from Strategic Development Group, talked briefly about downtown revitalization in Seymour.
He said he was encouraged by actions already taken and about future opportunities for the area.
“It takes a lot to put something like this together, but we have seen in many communities how just this sort of homegrown project can really make things happen,” Burgins said of the work done to the Knights of Pythias building and for the Silver Sandhills of Seymour exhibit.
Main Street is now working on setting up a new display that includes model trains and railroad memorabilia to attract visitors. The building was purchased by Main Street in May 2011. The group worked to restore the building and continues to market it to prospective buyers.
Recently, Strategic Development Group completed a study for the Seymour Redevelopment Commission on potential uses for millions of dollars in tax increment financing revenue and how it could continue to assist Main Street’s efforts to improve the downtown.
“I think the stars are aligned for even further growth in Seymour,” Burgins said.
Over the next three to five years, the plan identifies 12 different projects in the city on which commissioners could spend TIF funds.
“The good news for Main Street is three of the top six projects are tied to downtown,” he said.
Those projects include improving infrastructure such as roads and sidewalks, building acquisition and creating a facade program to restore the fronts of downtown buildings.
But it takes a lot more than city government to make it work, Burgins said.
“All of that is public investment, but as I look around the state, I see a lot more exciting things going on in private investment,” he said.
Burgins said they have worked with private investors in several small communities around the state that are purchasing buildings, restoring them and giving them new purposes, including restaurants, antique stores, gift shops and art galleries.
“The exciting thing is growth like this, restoring buildings like this triggers other type of work,” he said.
Burgins said now is the time to move forward on the opportunity with the redevelopment commission and take the next step forward with a formalized downtown plan.
The plan would take a closer look at architecture, landscaping and economic development, how to recruit new businesses and how to brand the community.
“A plan like this can harness and direct energy for downtown Main Street,” he said.
Seymour Main Street director Julie Huff said it has been a great year for the organization and the downtown.
“Obviously, one of the big accomplishments was getting the partnerships for this exhibit,” she said. “We brought in over 1,100 people to this exhibit, from schools, nursing homes and civic groups.”
Now, the organization is looking to what it can accomplish in the coming year.
“We have some big projects on the table,” Huff said.
Those include finishing up a $33,000 project to replace street signs with decorative cast iron signs, creating a building inventory to address vacancies and finding a buyer for the Knights of Pythias building.
“And we’ve got a few other things in our pockets that we haven’t talked about yet,” she said.