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WITT: Appearance is everything in downtown Winchester

To continue observations regarding the infrastructure of our community, fellow columnist Pete Koutoulas has made good comments and suggestions about things that could be implemented to make downtown prosper.

On a recent walk along Main Street, from Lexington Avenue north to beyond Winn Avenue, it was observed that there are at least three dozen vacant storefronts just on Main Street, with additional ones on the side streets.

While these empty slots do nothing to enhance the atmosphere of downtown, they should also be looked upon as opportunities, and this is being demonstrated by the ongoing and recent renovations to spaces which now, or will eventually, house businesses.

Dirty South Pottery, Arts on Main and Frames on Main are businesses that bring a vibrancy to North Main, and while the community could probably not survive as a purely arts community, these spots offer products and services that draw a diverse order of shoppers to the area.

D&S Hardware has established a reputation as the friendly downtown sources for a variety of products and services.

Another bright spot on North Main is the sidewalk arrangement in front of the Clark County Child Development Center, and the murals scattered throughout help enhance the area.

Main Street Winchester has, for years, discussed — and helped implement — measures to make the downtown more amenable to business, both those already established and new ones wishing to locate there.

The current construction of a handicap-accessible ramp at the intersection of Lexington Avenue and Main Street is a welcome addition. It was proposed more than three years ago, and its addition will make the high side of Main more accessible. 

A similar ramp at the Broadway/Main intersection is in the works for the next fiscal year and now would be a good time to install one there since there is work going on at 1 S. Main St. It would be the perfect time to re-configure the sidewalk there and install the ramp. Configurations for a ramp at this location were also available three years ago.

The blank windows of so many of the vacant buildings present a very dismal frontage to the passing public. Surely something could be devised to fill these windows with displays that, while still indicating the availability of the space, would present a more appealing visage. This has also been a discussion topic at Main Street Winchester in years past. Some conformity would be a great advantage.

Many of downtown’s sidewalks are in need of repair; several have been or are being addressed.

There are numerous spaces along Main Street at which additional landscaping would be helpful, such as at Winchester Municipal Utilities. Such additional landscaping would definitely be indicated in front of the massive precast concrete building on North Main opposite Winn Avenue. In fact, one must wonder why such a building was even permitted so close to the downtown business area; it is certainly out of character with other buildings nearby.

At the far end of North Main, Grace Bible Church is constructing a large metal building apparently as ancillary to their present facilities. Regrettably, the church gets no plaudits for this construction. Such a large metal building does nothing to improve a major thoroughfare of the city and its proximity to the street further overpowers the area. Design guidelines in place might have ameliorated this.

If our downtown area is going to prosper and grow and draw new businesses and enterprises, more care must be given to the appearance of the space and such new construction must be more carefully controlled, for the benefit of the entire community.


Chuck Witt is a retired architect and a lifelong resident of Winchester. He can be reached at chuck740@bellsouth.net.