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Volunteers present downtown revitalization plans

CHESTERTOWN - The stretch of stores and houses down Main Street, the historic downtown of the Town of Chester, once was a busy, vibrant scene with plenty of shopping and socializing.

Now it's primarily a row of vacant storefronts with minimal activity, even at the peak of the summer tourist season.

But a group of citizens are seeking to reverse the trend, and they presented their revitalization ideas at a recent town board meeting.

Chestertown resident Mary Jane Dower talked about the plans drafted to date by a downtown revitalization committee she leads.

The overall goal would adhere to the town's existing Master Plan, and the first step would be upgrading the streetscape infrastructure, she said, using a $72,000 grant obtained recently through Warren County.

The initial objectives would be to repair sidewalks, install benches and trash receptacles, add up to 10 decorative streetlights, and plant trees.

All these would boost the pedestrian experience and boost commerce and activity downtown, she said.

Dower announced a downtown Cleanup Day, planned for May 15, when volunteers would rake leaves and debris, remove trash and litter, and perhaps paint the facades of stores.

Local resident Tony Taverni suggested to the Chester Town Board that they review the condition of several buildings, now in dilapidated condition, and determine if they are safe and whether the government can either assist in their rehabilitation or mandate they be torn down.

Revitalization committee members said they would be trying to locate and apply for grants, whether it was for fixing up historic facades, or buying new furnaces for hard-to-heat commercial buildings with outdated heating equipment.

Resident Arnold Jensen talked at the meeting about conducting a survey to determine specific needs of townspeople as they relate to downtown enhancement. Local resident John Behan, an architect based in Saratoga Springs, has volunteered to draft the survey and post it on the town's website, he said.

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