Downtown Business Association explain how Main Street USA program will help downtown businesses

    DBA Board members Jill Ramiel and Evelyn Rousso joined Dana Herndon from the JEDC to introduce the Main Street USA program at the Moose Lodge Thursday, explaining how the program will help downtown Juneau and its business owners,

    The Downtown Business Association is spearheading the goal of downtown revitalization identified in the Juneau Economic Development Plan.

    Members talked about their work while recent guests on Action Line..

    Evelyn Russo chairs the DBA's Infrastructure Committee. She says part of their plan calls for developing and implementing a downtown improvement strategy. Russo says their research led them to Main Street USA which has been in the business of revitalizing downtowns across the nation for 35 years:

    "Main Street USA says a community is only as strong as its core and they are going to give us a practical framework for making our core even stronger. One of the interesting things we learned at this convention is that Juneau is in an enviable spot in terms of a downtown. The problems other downtowns have is so much more significant than ours and we have so much to work on and leverage to make ours fantastic. The idea of this revitalization is it needs to be inclusive and strategic. We need to come up with ideas for revitalizing downtown that are coordinated and will leverage themselves to make us even larger or more successful. Make no bones about it, it's about infrastructure, but it's really about economic development."

    DBA President Jill Ramiel says possibilities in the downtown area can help address the need for additional housing in the community.

    She pointed to the recently completed Housing Action Plan:

    "It says we need to build over the next five to ten years, 60 units per year to meet our needs and that our market is stuck. It also says there's not enough land to build 60 single family houses every year. It really comes to downtown, where we have the infrastructure and we're ready to build. The Willowby District is prime for investment right now to solve this housing need.

    Ramiel was asked about the potential for housing in buildings in the downtown core that are not occupied in the winter.

    A couple of years ago, through the JEDC and their efforts to work on downtown revitalization, they had a committee looking at that and at abandoned upstairs spaces and make a count so we would have an actual inventory on what the potential is there for development. That project was never completed, but we'd love to see those numbers."

    They say Scott Ciambor, CBJ's new Housing Director, is looking at making a list of under-utilized buildings.

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