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April 1 , 1995

Mike Wolfe, the former Perry police chief, had some very interesting things to say the other day when he spoke to the local Rotary club. Mike now operates a real estate and auction business in Ada. He is the immediate past president of Ada's Main Street organization and he came here to tell us what to look for as Perry enters into that same program. Mike knows our problems as well as he knows Ada's, so his comments are based on familiarity with the existing situation. Everyone in Perry should have heard him speak.

To illustrate the results of the Main Street program in Ada, he showed slide films and a home video tape of their downtown area, contrasting before and after views of broken curbs and sidewalks, abandoned buildings, vacant stores and empty spaces that were cluttered with litter and choked with weeds. Sound familiar? Some of those pictures looked like they could have been taken here.

The good news is that Ada, through the Main Street program, was able to overcome all that and now has a new look. Fake mansard awnings and aluminum veneers were stripped from building facades, revealing beautiful brick and stone fronts in period architectural styles. New brick and concrete sidewalks replaced the old ones, and curbs were rebuilt. Paint was sandblasted or chemically washed from brick buildings. The vacant lots were turned into restful little parks with benches, fountains and paved walks.

The city's downtown was dotted with vacant storefronts, but now prospective businesses are virtually standing in line, waiting for places to open up. "We had two or three strip centers pulling shoppers away from downtown," Mike noted. "But now the Main Street improvements are reversing that and we have a whole new ball game. The strip centers aren't shutting down, either. Instead, they're sprucing up their areas, too, in order to keep shoppers coming back."

Ada is a town of some 15,000, or roughly three times larger than Perry. Bill Haynes, a member of the Perry Development Coalition, said that doesn't mean Ada had more resources to work with than we do. "It just means they had three times as many problems to solve as we do," Bill said. "There isn't anything that happened in Ada that cannot happen in Perry. It just takes commitment on the part of each one of us. We can do the same thing with our downtown area that they did." Actually, according to Mike, Perry is ahead of where Ada was at the outset of their effort.

Perry's acceptance into the state's 1995 Main Street program is a cause for jubilation. With the vigorous backing of the Perry Development Coalition, this local renovation project soon will be getting into high gear. If our community responds the way I think it will, we should have a thoroughly revitalized and attractive downtown area in due time. It won't happen overnight. But knowing the willingness of Perry citizens to shoulder responsibility when a worthwhile challenge awaits them, I'm confident that this project is certain to succeed. Ada tried it and prospered. We can do it too.

When the Perry Development Coalition asks for your help one day soon, be ready to pitch in and someday we can be sending out our own emissaries, like Mike Wolfe, to show others what we accomplished here.