Chester citizens rally to revive their downtown

CHESTERTOWN - For years, Chester citizens have been perplexed and distressed that their once-vibrant downtown, full of business activity decades ago, has declined substantially.

Where local citizens once shopped and socialized in Chestertown, many storefronts on Main St. are now vacant and deteriorating.

Where pedestrians once strolled to enjoy the small-town ambiance, vehicles now just drive past.

A growing group of local citizens are now seeking to turn the situation around by revitalizing the core of the historic town.

A record turnout of about 60 local citizens attended the Chestertown Main Street Enhancement Committee meeting held Feb. 3.

Noting that Main Street has deteriorated over the past decade, leaving more than nine vacant buildings and many others needing repair, Supervisor Fred Monroe said at the meeting the time has arrived to take action.

Monroe talked about the GlobalFoundries microprocessor chip Plant in Malta that is expected to boost area employment by 57,000 workers or more, most with high-paying jobs. Some of these people, he said, will be looking north for homes - and spinoff businesses will likely flourish as satellite high-technology enterprises relocate to be near the multi-billion-dollar, state-of-the-art plant.

Chestertown needs to spruce up and enhance its image to attract these people and enterprises, he said.

Monroe also talked about how planned extensions of broadband Internet connections are likely to include Chestertown, bringing along business opportunities and people who want to relocate to rural areas while keeping connected to the information highway. Broadband is likely to be serving Chester as soon as next year, he said, and Chester needs to offer a pleasant downtown experience and a pleasing streetscape to attract its share of people migrating to upstate New York, he said.

Warren County has received a $100,000 streetscape improvement grant, and Chester will be a partial beneficiary in developing strategies for revitalizing its downtown, he said.

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