The Heritage Ohio Main Street Program visited Portsmouth on February 24 and 25, as part of its Quarterly Revitalization Series.
The event brought over 60 Heritage Ohio and Main Street leaders to the area to listen to guest speakers lecture on topics of development and reinvention of historic spaces, receive an update from the Southern Ohio Port Authority on the status of the America’s Best Communities Grant competition, enjoy a panel of local experts discuss the development process, and receive a tour of a few local highlights.
The Heritage Ohio lectures included “The Developer Overview,” by Brad DeHays, of Connect Realty; “Fostering Local Developers,” by Liz Argyle, of Argyle Properties; and “Public Private Projects,” by Jack Everson, former mayor of Chillicothe.
The format was informal and allowed free flow communication throughout the speakers’ presentations, so guests could take away the most information.
A plethora of topics were discussed, but most emphasized the importance of developers and business owners working hand-in-hand with their municipalities to accomplish the most good.
Following the presentations, Adam Phillips, of the Southern Ohio Port Authority, spoke about Portsmouth’s position in the America’s Best Communities Grant competition.
“It was a great opportunity for Portsmouth to update civic leaders across the state on where we are in the competition,” Joseph Pratt, executive director of Main Street Portsmouth, said. “Everyone was very supportive and seemed to appreciate the idea of Portsmouth putting more focus back on the riverfront, in order to open that up to build back into the downtown area. We were even able to take a photo with everyone showing statewide support for Portsmouth.”
Following the morning session, guests were released for two hours to eat in downtown restaurants and to tour some of the small shops.
“I was probably most excited for this part of the day, because we were able to highlight all of the dedicated shop owners that work hard to make downtown Portsmouth a place worth visiting,” Pratt said. “It was nice to show them off and to give them a little outside business.”
The day continued with a panel of local experts, which was coordinated by local Scott Moore.
The panel included Portsmouth City Fire Chief Bill Raison, developer and attorney Jeremy Burnside, business owner and realtor Craig DeAtley, and architect David Stone.
The panel discussed the process of developing property and gave local examples to support the proper process.
“Everyone on the panel was professional and perfectly represented their area of expertise,” Pratt said. “I heard many, many compliments on Chief Raison later that evening. Other Main Street program directors expressed envy over Portsmouth for having someone like Bill, who is not only great at his job, but also cares for the historic integrity and old architecture that most downtown buildings have.”
Following the panel, guests had an evening of tours planned for them. Terry Ockerman showcased three different rooms in the Lofts, and also discussed how Coffee @ the Lofts came to be. Jeremy Burnside was able to put a visual to his earlier discussion by a tour of his renovated church space that now serves as an office to his law firm and Rutman-Burnside Realty. Many guests also received a tour of the Vern Riffe Center for the Arts from Executive Director Joe Patti, before a special tour and telling of the Portsmouth Brewing Co. before dinner.
“Personally, I was very excited for the tours,” Pratt said. “I was able to plan that portion of the evening myself and I wanted to showcase some of the standout locations that I knew would leave an impact on our guests. Everyone was floored by the simple, yet super sophisticated, designs that our newer developments feature. I wanted to highlight places that people would go home and talk about. I figured the best way to do that would be to put our guests in the hands of our local developers and business professionals.”
The following morning held a Director’s Roundtable for the Ohio Main Street directors who attended the conference. The event was held in the conference room of the Lofts and provided an opportunity for the directors to network and discuss future networking events.