SALEM - Volunteers who want the downtown spruced up are asking building owners to paint the town red, green, beige or whatever color it takes to make their locations more appealing.
The project known as Paint the Town resulted from a walking tour taken last summer by city leaders and members of organizations whose missions are to improve Salem's curb appeal and attract more businesses to the community.
Ginger Grilli, a member of the Paint the Town planning committee and chairman of the city's Design Review Board, explained that various groups working in collaboration decided they could target different blocks of town, beginning with State Street from Lincoln Avenue to Broadway Avenue.
Workers from Painted Lady Inc. of Leetonia work on the facade of the Salem Community Theatre building, which also houses the Ice Cream Parlor, as part of the Paint the Town project to improve the appearance of downtown Salem. (Salem News photo by Mary Ann Greier)
Members of the planning committee have been talking to business owners and building owners about how they can improve the facades of their buildings, offering free help with the design and assistance in getting the work done.
As an example, Grilli met with the board of the Salem Community Theatre, which owns the building at the corner of State Street and South Lundy Avenue housing both the theatre and the Ice Cream Parlor. Historical research was done on the building and historically accurate designs were provided for improving the appearance. There were some donors and SCT put some money into the project.
The committee provided SCT with a list of painters who agreed to provide a discount and secured paint, with 10 to 40 percent discounts offered by Sherwin Williams, Superior Paints, Busy Beaver and Home Depot.
Many businesses have made improvements in the downtown area on their own, she said. She wasn't sure if it was all because of the Paint the Town project, but said when one business makes improvements, others follow, especially if the building next door improves and makes their building look bad.
Besides the theatre and Ice Cream Parlor, some of the area businesses she credited for making improvements included JP Antiques, Natural Solutions, McFeeders Tae Kwan Do, Ricky's English Pub,, Pure Pet, Mike's Penn Avenue Grill, Moonstone Massotherapy, the Cahill-owned building on East State Street, Daydreamers, Salem Fun Factory, Instacopy, Salem Fitness Center, Dress Code, Quaker Village, Butech-Bliss, Phantom AutoWorks, State Street Tattoo, Salem Historical Society and the Nestic-owned building on Broadway.
Paint the Town is a joint venture of representatives from the city service department, city council, Design Review Board, Salem Area Chamber of Commerce Partners of Progress and Beautification Committee, the Sustainable Opportunity Development Center and the Salem Preservation Society.
"There has been work done on the downtown," chamber Executive Director Audrey Null said.
Grilli said the Design Review Board is still working on the grant-funded building evaluation for structures in the downtown area. A comprehensive evaluation of a building costs nothing, with participation voluntary and owners encouraged to give evaluation teams permission to do a visual inspection and give written feedback.
So far, 15 businesses have participated in the building evaluation phase. She said they want to get all the businesses scheduled this month and next, with about 70 buildings left on the list.
Teams will use the evaluations to determine which structures are most at risk and during phase 2 will provide free engineering opinions for structures receiving the lowest scores.
Grilli said it's "all related to making sure buildings are viable and that they present the kind of appearance we want our town to have."
Null emphasized that there are good things happening in Salem and the volunteers from these different groups are very busy working on making it happen.
"The Salem Area Chamber of Commerce is proud of our volunteer workforce who answer the call to the plans and initiatives that have been formulated in various committee meetings," she said. "Success occurs when people work together collaboratively. We sincerely thank those who have worked extremely hard to build awareness of our community's overall appearance and condition. There is much more work to be accomplished, but the "Paint the Town" effort, the building evaluations, and the ongoing work of the chamber's Beautification Committee are a successful start to the work that needs to be accomplished in the downtown and throughout the entire business community."