Saving Downtown: Bardstown, Kentucky

As time passes, and we all get greyer, Lorain’s downtown misses out on more opportunities to do something with itself. More and more money gets wasted on surveys that will gather dust in a corner or on the shelf at the local library, rather than time and money being spent to resurrect this town from the grave it continues to dig itself into. While people argue whether downtown or infrastructure should come first, so that the other will follow, absolutely nothing gets done, making the entire argument moot. Our Design Review Board merely gums itself on the statutes they’ve lain out years ago, because none of the guidelines are really adhered to or, dare I say, even evident to anyone today.

This past weekend, I was in Bardstown, Kentucky for the wedding of my cousin Kris and his fiancee, Julia. The ceremony was in the evening, so we had Saturday afternoon to check out the downtown.  I was both thrilled and saddened because I could shoot another downtown, and only dream about what could be back home. According to a friend in the know, some of the stores downtown remain vacant because the owners are looking for $1500 per month rent. That’s JUST rent. A prospective businessperson would still need to shell out for utilities and insurance and everything else. And since there’s so many empty shops along Broadway, there’s less and less draw to the area. (Maybe the City could cut some of these store owners a break on their taxes IF they dropped rent to something that a prospective new business could afford so they could actually try to improve Downtown’s chances again?)

Dreaming aside, as you can see from the photos below, not only was Bardstown a beautiful area, it was also very busy, with numerous restaurants and even a soda counter in a drugstore!! Remember those? Sundaes and sodas and malts and shakes, sandwiches and snacks. Parking was a little scarce, but a drive or two through would find a space just recently vacated.  Very hospitable shopkeepers, friendly faces, and polite people were everywhere. If only…..








Chagrin Falls, Ohio

Many years ago, in another life, I visited Chagrin Falls. Very cozy, cute little town. After doing shoots and articles on Elyria, Norwalk, Amherst and Lorain’s downtown, I had to go see Chagrin Falls again, 15+ years later. Since the rest of my family had plans away from home this past weekend, I treated myself to a trip east.

When I turned the corner onto N. Main, I thought I’d taken myself there during some huge festival. Cars parked up and down the street (Saturday afternoon, just after 3pm.), people walking into and out of businesses, talking on the sidewalks, just having the time of their lives. I finally found a parking spot on the other side of downtown, and started walking.

This was business as usual. Nothing exciting or out of the ordinary. Just people getting out on a brisk weekend day, and doin’ stuff. I think I counted 4 or 5 cafes or restaurants, a coffee shop, popcorn shop, a bookstore and a unique resale shop, and so much more. And it was all BUSY!!!  Kinda dreamed the dream of this being downtown Lorain, risen from the dead, and rejuvenated.

I’m gonna hold onto that dream with both hands…

Here are some of the businesses in Chagrin Falls.


Candies, flavored popcorn, ice cream and sorbets, flavored coffees, etc.
















Stop lights on either end of the downtown, numerous crosswalks with “Yield to Pedestrian” signs in the middle, and some pretty high priced vehicles scattered around the street. Two Porsches, numerous Lexuseseses, Caddies, and Audis.

I will admit that the Falls falls are a huge draw. I saw a lot of people with cameras and posing in front of the falls. I saw THREE different wedding parties lining up at various spots along the River with the falls in the background, and there’s 2 sets of falls!! (I’ll have shots of those later.)

Looking at these businesses, wouldn’t you just love to see this in Lorain?! The MJ wrote a few months ago that a summer intern put together a guide of downtown, with owners and the businesses they run, or the empty buildings they own, and some other info for Mayor Tony K to access. It would be great if something was being put together to get some of these property owners access to money or get them motivated to do something or just sell the building to someone who will.

Or what about getting permission from the EPA to create a set of falls on the Black River…?

That just might be a little easier….


Saving Downtown: Why Does It Look Like It Does?

As I drive around the County, I become more and more frustrated. I walk around the downtown areas of the cities that surround Lorain, and I become sad. Do you know why? Walk with me, will you?

Let’s take a look at a few buildings in Norwalk.


Now look at Elyria.

I hope your legs aren’t tired yet.

 Here’s Amherst.



I walked Vermilion’s downtown last night with my kids.




I don’t even want to show you what we’ve got on Broadway, but we all need a collective slap in the face.



Was my sample of downtown Lorain fair? Nope, not by a longshot. Because we’ve got the Duane Building, Art Oehlke’s The 530 Shop, and a number of other beautiful buildings. But. BUT. We still have structures like I pictured above.

I have written certain people in our City. People who have intimate knowledge of programs that might be available. I have asked what can be done to spur some improvement along Broadway. What could motivate or help some of these building owners to improve their properties?

I’ve received no replies, no answers.


If this City is going to bring itself back, besides improving the Housing and Infrastructure, it needs to give a big fat booster shot to its downtown area. Specifically Broadway from West Erie all the way to, at least, the West 14th Street area. We need facelifts and we need businesses in these properties, not buildings used to store stuff.

What can the City do? What can the organizations that work with the City do?

What can City Council do to fit the Design Review Board with some teeth, and help it coordinate things with the Building Department, so that things look a little, no, A LOT better along Broadway?

Someone Please Tell Me WHY Our Downtown Looks Like It Does?!

Mainstreet Programs: Amherst and Elyria

The Ohio Main Street Program, administered by Heritage Ohio, has been working with communities across the state to revitalize their historic or traditional commercial areas. Based in historic preservation, the Main Street approach was developed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation to save historic commercial architecture and the fabric of American communities’ built environment, but has become a powerful economic development tool as well.

I recently walked through Elyria and Amherst, taking photos of their downtown areas, that had recently gone through the program. I was amazed, and hope that Lorain embraces this same program, to resurrect the Broadway area, and give a booster shot to downtown’s commerce.


Some examples of downtown Elyria. Amherst is a little different, as their downtown is much smaller, and located within just a few blocks. But, for as old as the buildings are, they are quite beautiful.




A perfect example of what a storefront should look like. Notice the font for the window sign. Very tasteful. And from looking at this store from afar, you’d never guess that it housed a tattoo shop.



The building with the red and white awning? A Mexican restaurant. This is what working with the city’s Design Review Board can do for a downtown. No garish colors. It blends perfectly.

I would like to thank Thad Gregg of Amherst, DeAnna Frye, Angela Byington, and Jerry Klein of Elyria for their time, patience, and all of their help in finding out about their programs, their DRB guidelines, and their invitations for sit-downs so that I could see how they ran things.  Their help is greatly appreciated and I found it very valuable.