Downtown preservationists hitting the road

SALEM – Some Salem preservationists working on a program to revitalize the downtown are hitting the road to visit successful historic downtown districts in other cities.

Ginger Grilli, chairman of the Design Review Board which is overseeing the city’s revised Certified Local Government (CLG) grant project, gave city council’s Committee of the Whole a brief overview of the project activities during a meeting this past week.

She also introduced the members to David Taylor, the project’s downtown development consultant with Taylor and Taylor, who lives in Brookville, Pa., the first city the Friends of Historic Downtown Salem visited. Other cities to be visited include Wooster on July 31 and Beaver, Pa., Millersburg, Ohio and Medina, Ohio in August.

Seats are reserved on each trip for Salem city administrators, council members, members of the Design Review Board, Salem Area Chamber of Commerce, Salem Community Foundation, Salem Preservation and Historical societies, downtown building owners and business owners and city residents.

Round trip transportation is provided, but participants must pay for their own lunch and any purchases they make. Space is limited, so those interested in attending should email their choice of trip to Grilli at or call for information at 330-337-7225.

During the trip to Brookville last week, Grilli said participants were polled on what they saw and what they would like to see incorporated in Salem. She said the group is on a fact-finding mission with the trips and with meetings here in Salem with downtown business owners and building owners.

The overall goal is to create a written plan for Salem to improve the downtown. According to the outline for the CLG grant project, the plan is to “develop a program that engages owners and tenants in the historic district and government and community leaders in economic and community development activities grounded in historic preservation.”

Councilman Dave Nestic commented that most of the cities they are visiting are county seats or college towns. He wondered if they were visiting any cities without those characteristics. Grilli explained that they asked the state historical preservation representatives for the best examples of preservation and economic success. They decided to pick the ones that displayed both characteristics.

“We wanted to find out who’s doing the best job,” she said.

Taylor talked about what was done in Brookville and explained how they were using the format used in Main Street programs aimed at historic preservation and economic success, the same as what they’re trying to do in Salem.

Those components include organization, economic restructuring, promotion and marketing and design. He said groups must have the downtown as part of their plans. Also to be considered is zoning and code enforcement and whether it’s a help or a hindrance, how the downtown looks and finding ways to promote the downtown and bring people to the downtown.

The role of local government would be to look at legislation and how it affects the downtown and change outmoded zoning if necessary.

In Brookville, he said the activity in the downtown spawned a lot of community organization.

“Enthusiasm that was generated by the downtown carried out into the neighborhoods,” he said.

Grilli’s outline for the CLG project includes six points that they’ve been working on implementing already with various activities. Those points include: refine and implement a plan for downtown development; explore planning and zoning enhancements to improve ease of understanding and use; increase marketing activities and materials; have consensus building activities; have community information activities; and enhance the safety and appearance of buildings in Historic Downtown Salem.

Some of the activities have included the Chocolate Crawl in March, joining and becoming leaders with the Salem Federation of Women’s Clubs to ensure preservation of the Ruth Smucker House, work with the Golden Triangle of Ohio for tours to Salem, hosting the Building Doctor event, have volunteers to building condition assessments and the list continues.