Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Vision For Mt. Lebanon's Commercial Districts

Every building tells a story, according to Eric Milliron, Commercial Districts Manager for Mt. Lebanon.  "I try to learn each story to see if it needs to be rewritten," he says.

Keeping the storefronts occupied is only part of his job, though it's one he does well:  the Uptown district has a vacancy rate of 7-9%, which is considered low in the industry, while the Beverly Road corridor is 100% occupied at street level.  So how do we leverage our commercial districts to attract maximum foot traffic and keep merchants happy?  Events, for starters.

The youthful and energetic Milliron taps into his own personal experience for ideas that will benefit the community.  An avid bicyclist, he arranged for Mt. Lebanon to kick off "Car-Free Friday" in the region.  On May 21st, all residents will be encouraged to leave the car at home and take public transit to work, walk the kids to school, etc.  The initiative, co-sponsored by Bike Pittsburgh, will have local merchants offering discounts to bicyclists on that day while the Police Department and W. Liberty Cycle provide bike inspections and music plays well into the night.  Another opportunity to bike our sites will come with the "Tour de Mt. Lebanon," a joint venture of the Mt. Lebanon Partnership and the Mt. Lebanon Cycling & Caffeine Club.  Modeled after Pedal Pittsburgh, the self-guided cycling tour will circumnavigate the municipality while meandering through parks and neighborhoods.  A map with architectural details will allow riders to finally engage little-known areas.

"The way you enliven main streets is to have a good mix of businesses but also to host events that bring people here," says Milliron.  "That benefits the community and the businesses."  Milliron's next event is the Uptown Winterfest, which will include a late-afternoon scavenger hunt and live music in the evening.  The date is Saturday, February 13 and East End Brewing products will be on tap.  Looking down the road to summer, the First Friday series will continue Uptown and Milliron is hopeful for more merchant participation since these events draw considerable foot traffic.  "Even if you don't make the sale that night, you'll get the customer later," says Milliron.

One thing is certain:  a lively Mt. Lebanon is a win-win for everyone and my family is already training for the Tour de Mt. Lebanon!

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