By Jeffrey B. Roth; Photos by Phil Grout
There’s a renaissance of commerce and activity in Hanover thanks to a partnership between the Hanover Borough, Hanover Area Chamber of Commerce and the York County Economic Alliance. Officially dubbed Main Street Hanover, the revitalization launched in January 2013.
“Main Street Hanover follows the national 4-point approach to Main Streets,” said Justine Kilkelly, Main Street Hanover manager. Four committees focus on organization, business development, design and promotion as they evaluate the downtown, suggest ways to create partnerships and then set realistic goals.
“Economic restructuring, or the business development committee, works on business retention, recruitment and investment,” Kilkelly explained. “The design committee has been focusing on a façade grant program, a design and beautification plan, as well as implementing some public art pieces. And last but not least, the promotions committee works to promote and market the Main Street Hanover image through marketing activity, special events, and campaigns.”
Ben Adams, whose day job is working as an auto technician at Hanover Toyota, is serving his fifth year as Hanover mayor, a part-time elected office. Born and raised in Hanover, Adams said he had never planned to enter into politics, but he decided he wanted to find a way to serve the community and the job of mayor became the expression of that desire.
Growing up in the Hanover-area has provided Adams with a perspective on the decline and renewal of the downtown. Admittedly, Adams is a realist and he acknowledges that the relationship between borough government and local business is not always easy—but the results of working together are readily apparent in the downtown area.
“When the North Hanover Mall came, the bigger box stores left the downtown…I guess for the grandeur and doing business with other businesses in one location,” Adams said. “The downtown suffered as a result of it.”
When Adams became interested in running for mayor, he embarked on a learning experience, studying all aspects of government relating to the borough’s physical and economic well-being. During that initiation, he began attending meetings hosted by the Hanover Area Chamber of Commerce, which focused on the plight of the downtown area; and how a Main Street program could help solve some of the issues and problems confronting the borough and businesses.
“To see the buildings, downtown, which were vacated and left unattended was disheartening because nothing was going on down there,” Adams said. “There are other small towns in the area, such as Hummelstown, which have beautiful downtowns with lots of stuff to do. A coalition of a lot of people got together and committed to doing the same thing here.”
Owners of existing downtown businesses, members of borough government, along with officials from the chamber, and concerned residents, began offering workable solutions and ideas designed to attract more people to center square and its environs.
“We have a lot of buildings with absentee landlords, who need to be held accountable,” Adams said. “It’s a matter of attracting businesses here. Right on the square, we have just had one brewery open and there is another right down the street in the process of opening. If we get nice apartments and condos down there and we get a younger generation living there, it will increase foot traffic.”
The former Montgomery Wards building, which needs renovation and upgrading, is located adjacent to the borough office, Adams said. Current plans by the owner are to open a cafe restaurant on the ground level and upscale apartments on the upper levels. The site boasts adequate off-street parking as well.
“Everybody’s on the same page, working together and it’s coming to fruition,” Adams said. “It’s happening. We have a full head of steam and we just got our Main Street designation last year which provides more opportunities for grants.”
Events, such as Dutch Days, are excellent ways to draw people downtown. Despite a snow storm, a Mardi Gras Gala, held Saturday, Feb. 21, to benefit Main Street Hanover, drew a decent crowd to the Hanover Heritage and Conference Center at 22 Carlisle Street, for an evening of Cajun-themed food, drinks and entertainment. Area vendors recreated a Bourbon Street, New Orleans, atmosphere in Hanover, despite the white stuff falling outside.
“This event garnered tremendous support from downtown merchants, businesses across the greater Hanover area, and Hanover-area residents who want to see this area succeed,” said Gary Laird, president of the Hanover Area Chamber of Commerce, in an article on the chamber’s website. “Mardi Gras was a significant event this year; not only do the proceeds benefit Main Street Hanover, but it was a signature event held in one of downtown Hanover’s landmark buildings. It showcased the possibilities for downtown and future events here in Hanover.”
Katy King, marketing and public relations director for the chamber, said downtown revitalization is evident in new businesses opening their doors. In addition there is a new vitality evident in downtown staples, such as Clark’s, Treasures, Furs by Susan, Famous Hot Wiener, Carriage House Market, Style-Line Kitchens and The Sandy Woods.
“It is exciting to hear that downtown businesses are supporting one another by providing referrals and directions from one business to the next—one such example is the collaboration between the Carriage House Market and Abithat’s (newly opened olive and oil bar),” King said. “The Carriage House offers locally-sourced meats and cheeses that pair well with the oils, vinegars and spices found at Abithat’s; and they refer customers to one another as they are just down an alley from one another.”
Collaborations are forming between business owners. King cited the example of Miscreation Brewery pairing with Timeline Arcade for a weekend gaming event.
“At a grand opening event for the new Diamond’s and Designs by Ashley Lauren, the turnout from other downtown merchants was overwhelming,” King said. “I know the owners are very happy with the support they are receiving from the other merchants downtown.”
“There have been many people behind the revitalization efforts, but the two driving forces have been the partners, Hanover borough and the Hanover Area Chamber of Commerce,” Kilkelly said. “They are so supportive and really want to see these revitalization efforts take hold in the downtown. I was hired in January and have heard many positive responses from the Hanover residents and others living in the greater Hanover area.”
Highlights of accomplishments last year include a Keystone Community Designation from the state of Pennsylvania; the issuance of request for proposals for streetscaping and for a landscape/traffic study of the downtown. The first annual Christmas Tree Wars brought in visitors to the downtown; and the launching of the 2nd Saturday program is a continuing effort to attract visitors.
Hanover’s revitalization and others around the country “are hitting a time period they need to jump on, when the economy is finally starting to show some signs of growth for the average citizen, and they’re ready to start heading out again,” said Andrew Smith of Visual Realia, which sponsors free family-friendly photo walking tours. “Interestingly, the once popular mall trend is quickly reversing, with some shuttering while others revamp into an open concept—and who does an open concept better than a downtown?”
For more information on Main Street Hanover, visit www.mainstreethanover.org.