Abilene Forward isn’t waiting to make downtown friendlier and more attractive.
The group that met Monday evening decided the first thing to do is schedule “Cleanup Saturdays,” starting this Saturday.
Group members had expressed distaste for weeds and grass growing in the sidewalks and trash in the streets and alleys.
Everyone is welcome to come help, Weese said, and is encouraged to bring gloves, trash bags and weed killer, anything you’d use to clean up your own garden.
This will be just general cleanup, said Elizabeth Weese, director of Dickinson County Community Foundation and coordinator of Abilene Forward.
If Saturday goes well, Weese said, she’d like to make it a weekly project, or at least “Seven Saturdays” through the summer.
The Eisenhower celebration and window signs were “a huge success,” Weese said.
The idea started with decorating the windows of empty storefronts and it “just blossomed.”
“The town looked amazing,” she said. “I’m very, very proud of Abilene.”
What, she asked, should our next theme be?
The group chose the Chisholm Trail and cowboy heritage for Trails, Rails and Tales in August and September.
Discussed were other beatification projects, including new benches and trash cans for downtown. The city provides the trash cans, Weese said, but the benches are privately owned. A committee chaired by Mike Kaiser will look into designs and costs and talk with the city about coordinating.
Stringing lights over downtown streets for a plaza look was moved up to a priority.
The sign pointing people to downtown attractions was installed on the Royer Building at Third and Buckeye and is working well, Weese said, although she was surprised at how small the sign seems on the building.
But businesspeople in the audience said they answered many questions from visitors wanting to know where to go when they did come downtown. Was there something like a current visitors guide they could give out?
Julie Roller, director of the CVB, said she was working on an updated visitors guide.
Phil Hamilton volunteered to draw an aerial map to include with it.
The cartoon-style map will include pictures of buildings and attractions, he said.
“This is the main way-finding guide people use when they come into a city,” Hamilton said.
He said he’d drawn similar maps for other cities such as Sarasota, Florida.
The map could be sent out digitally, Weese said, so that it would be available on websites and apps, something every business could offer to smartphone-users or print off as needed.
Hamilton agreed to have a sketch version of the map for the next meeting July 22.
The Heritage Commission is making available window clings for historic buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, said Duane Schrag. Doug Smart of Smart Insurance has offered to pay for 50. Schrag said there 87 contributing structures to the historic downtown district.
“We’re hoping that will spark some interest and recognition of historic buildings,” Schrag said.
Weese reminded people that there are interest-free façade improvement loans available through the Abilene Area Chamber of Commerce.
Using the loans to take the covers off the facades could make the buildings eligible to become contributing buildings in the historic district, Schrag said, and the owners could apply for generous tax credits.
Contact Jean Bowers at firstname.lastname@example.org.