Mayoral Candidates Discuss Downtown Businesses
Incumbent and challenger discuss their views on downtown businesses in Havre de Grace.
Patch asked the candidates for the May 3 election to share their opinions on more than a dozen topics relating to the city.
In this installment, the candidates for Havre de Grace mayor—incumbent Wayne Dougherty and challenger City Councilman Mitch Shank—discuss downtown businesses in Havre de Grace:
Dougherty said the operation of a business, first and foremost, falls upon the business itself. But it doesn’t end there.
“There are things that government can do,” Dougherty said. “We do it through our economic development. We do it in working with groups like Main Street, the Chamber of Commerce, working with our actual tourism. The grant funding—we’ve been very successful in grants, with our RAD loans, façade improvement, which is run through Main Street, but it's all run through our economic development manager.”
Dougherty said Havre de Grace is ahead of the curve when it comes to grants.
“We’ve brought hundreds of thousands of dollars, when other communities are having a lot of problems getting money to do anything,” he said. “We’ve been very fortunate. It’s because we have something to market, and that’s our downtown.”
Dougherty is proud of the city’s work in improving streetscapes, including Franklin Street, Pennington Avenue and the seal in the road at the “five points” at Rochambeau Plaza.
But he has more in mind.
“Now our initiative is going to St. John Street and finishing up that end and to give the water plant a much-needed facelift. That is our gateway in,” Dougherty said. “When people come through Legion Square, Legion Square opens a vista that is beautiful, to our beautiful Union Avenue, to our beautiful downtown. But that first block just doesn’t say what we want it to say. That’s what we’re working on now.”
Shank’s first concern with improving the downtown business district is code enforcement.
“That’s at the top of my list. I would strictly go in there and take care of the buildings,” he said. “You have a lot of people that make major investments. You have two or three in some blocks that are taking away from the attraction to everybody else. I would literally, personally call the property owner and say, 'I want to see you here at 9 o’clock tomorrow morning and see what we can do.' Do we get you a façade grant? A RAD loan somehow? What can we do? This is in the enterprise zone. If you fix up the property, we’re going to make it happen or we’re going to be sitting on your doorstep everyday.”
Shank recognized the owners of Laurrapin Grille, MacGregor’s, Coakley’s and Chiapparellis, in particular, with making façade improvements.
“A lot of those properties downtown used to not be owned by locals. That’s not true anymore,” he said. “We have a much more invested interest.”
While code enforcement—which Shank admits will “tick some people off”—is important, Shank’s real vision is the old theater on St. John Street.
“I would go to Nick Conits and ask, ‘What’s it going to take to get that theater done?’ Its something, from an economic development standpoint, something that would benefit the restaurants on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday night, that would turn around Havre de Grace downtown,” Shank said.
Shank views Havre de Grace’s future as something like that of New Hope, PA, on the northeast side of Philadelphia. The key to that vision, Shank said, is providing an entertainment destination to boost the restaurants and shops. He points to the theater as that hub.
“To have something seven nights a week in that building, you park once, walk, go to the restaurant for dinner, then you go there. Or you go there, then to the restaurant,” Shank said. “Everything, you’re two blocks away. And it probably wouldn’t cause too much of a problem with parking.”
Other issues the candidates for mayor have addressed:
Water and Sewer Fund—April 20