BY JENNIFER BAILEY
---- — DANVILLE — For a little more than half of its existence, about 16 years, Danville Neighborhood Development Manager John Dreher has been involved with Downtown Danville, Inc.
He was first an outside partner with the city starting in 1997. Then he served as a committee volunteer and then as a board member starting about six years ago representing Vermilion County.
He also continues to help administer the façade grants and small business loans program for downtown.
As one who visits other cities and their downtowns, Dreher said Danville has a strong downtown.
“Danville ought to be very proud of its tenacity with the Vermilion Heritage Foundation board and Fischer Theatre,” Dreher said.
People can get discouraged if plans don’t work out, he said.
Downtown also sees businesses come and go; but there are some mainstays too.
Dreher said a downtown focus and Downtown Danville Inc. helps in “keeping merchants operating in the downtown and keeping the downtown as a destination with things you can’t find elsewhere.”
DDI, which promotes the downtown area, is celebrating 30 years this year.
Dreher said looking back 30 years, there is a lot to be proud of downtown.
He adds that other Main Street communities also have come and gone.
There may have been disagreements through the years, but DDI has picked itself up and kept on going, Dreher said.
The important thing is to keep marching along and move ahead a little bit at a time, he added.
Dreher said early boards and directors have maintained the organization “seamlessly.”
There also was a time when the downtown has seen two or three times the first-floor vacancies, he said.
To celebrate DDI’s 30 years, there will be a celebration for downtown building and business owners and their employees. It is invitation only.
The event will be similar to a downtown business after-hours event. It will be from 4-7 p.m. Oct. 30. Reservations are required.
DDI director Dana Schaumburg said the event will include drinks and appetizers at Rich’s Deluxe, 21 W. North St. There will be some awards and recognitions and prize giveaways, in addition to tours of the newly renovated upper story residential space where kids kloset owners Dan and Jody Duncheon reside.
“It is gorgeous,” Schaumburg said of the renovated residential space in the former Old Towne Video building off Hazel Street and behind Vermilion Street’s kids kloset.
People can see before and after pictures of the space.
Schaumburg said the renovated-space is a really good showplace of what can be accomplished with a building that was heading toward demolition (it had a gaping hole in the roof) and the time and work put into renovations by the building owners and some hired help.
This is the first upper story renovation in more than five years downtown.
“The examples are nice to show people,” Schaumburg said.
The Duncheons plan to lease the bottom level.
“It’s prime retail space,” Schaumburg said.
DDI is celebrating the past and future.
“A lot of things have been accomplished over the 30 years,” Schaumburg said. “We’re celebrating the growth that has happened.”
The city also recently started accepting applications again for the downtown façade program.
The program can help with up to 50 percent of the costs for improved building facades.
“We have some good looking stuff through that program,” Dreher said.