Hope Downtown Network meeting set for Thursday
By Rick Kennedy, managing editor
As the April monthly meeting of the Hope Downtown Network commences this Thursday at the Tailgater’s Annex, the organization has passed two years in existence, and it continues to evolve, even as its mission and purpose remain the same.
Chairman and co-founder Bob Erwin said Tuesday, “We are in a different place than we were then. There are a lot of individual efforts and private investment happening, and overall, I would say momentum is good.”
Erwin noted that 13 real estate transactions and acquisitions have occurred in downtown Hope in recent months, a development he called “both positive and encouraging.”
Much of year one of the Downtown Network saw very visible developments like placement of new red trash containers, painting downtown light poles, and the addition of benches and seating.
Erwin said, “The projects that are visible that we can do are limited, and we’ve also had the unpredictable weather much of the last six months, which has not allowed for much to be done.”
Some of the group’s more recent efforts have revolved around Elm Street, where a building was painted and where new tenets have settled.
Erwin said one of the next efforts for the group will be getting 50-to-60 banners for the downtown light poles.
For bigger initiatives, beyond the scope and budget of the Network, Erwin said increased city government involvement would be needed, such as to build a sidewalk or walking path from the Clinton Birthplace to downtown Hope. One of the highlights, Erwin recalled “The City of Hope replaced the globes and lights, and all of the 52 historic downtown light poles were painted by the Network and many volunteers. It was a good example of a collaborative effort, which helped everyone.”
“We are excited about the small changes that we have been able to make in downtown Hope to make it look better and improve it, and we look forward to moving forward,“ he said.
Since the infancy of the group, Erwin has been the Downtown Network’s principal visionary and godfather. The development of the Hope Downtown Network came on the heels of Erwin’s downtown initiative Trade Days, which debuted four months before the first network meeting in February 2017.
First meeting at the Tailgaters Annex, Erwin corralled and calmed a diverse group of over 50 concerned downtown merchants and citizens, many of whom days before had attended a 90-minute raucous Hope City Board meeting demanding action on downtown issues.
“There wasn’t anything being done in downtown, and something needed to be done. There was a need, and it was the right time for an organization like this to come together,” Erwin said at the time.
Now, over two years later, the Hope Downtown Network continues to see regular attendance of 25 or more persons at its meetings, and Erwin said “It shows people still care, and we know we still have work to do.”
The Hope Downtown Network meets monthly, usually the 3rd Thursday of the month at Tailgaters Annex on Main Street. April’s monthly meeting happens this Thursday at 6 p.m.