Explore Sewickley earns Main Street America accreditation

Tuesday, September 4, 2018 | 9:06 AM

Explore Sewickley has earned recognition as a national Main Street America program for its economic development and community revitalization efforts in the borough.

The nonprofit that serves Sewickley is one of more than 800 organizations to receive the accreditation, according to Emily Schmidt of the National Main Street Center.

“Obtaining Main Street America accreditation is a mark of distinction that signifies commitment to comprehensive revitalization, community engagement and rigorous outcome measurement,” Schmidt said.

Explore Sewickley generated more than 4,000 volunteer hours in 2017, and Alexandra Lancianese, Main Street manager for the nonprofit, said this achievement played the biggest role in helping her organization earn accreditation.

“We do a lot of reporting on volunteer hours, work plans and meetings, budget(ing), attending and completing the Community Revitalization Academy led by the PA Downtown Center, managers’ meetings and more,” Lancianese said.

In addition to turning out volunteers for events, Lancianese also said that Explore Sewickley helps connect interested business people with available space in Sewickley, as part of its ongoing business development work. Eight new businesses opened in Sewickley last year, Lancianese wrote in an email.

Explore Sewickley also has its eyes on the future. In partnership with the Pennsylvania Downtown Center, the organization is working on a vision statement for the Sewickley community. An ongoing project to get an entrance sign includes involvement from the Sewickley Valley Chamber of Commerce and the borough.

“To achieve accreditation through the National Main Street Center is no small feat,” said Maria Wherley of the Pennsylvania Downtown Center. “That said, a community vision is the guidepost to their future and a ‘Welcome to Sewickley’ is well-deserved signage and an earned, recognized placard.”

The entrance sign and statement are a work-in progress, Lancianese said, and both projects will carry into 2019.

“The community vision statement was just approved as a first draft by the Explore Sewickley board of directors,” Lancianese explained. “The signage project is one that is important to the business district and to the chamber as well, because it will only help attract more people.”

The Pennsylvania Downtown Center promotes many of the same community development initiatives that Explore Sewickley prioritizes. In partnership with the National Main Street Center, the organization recognizes local programs that meet certain accreditation criteria each year. These include prioritizing public-private partnerships, documenting programmatic progress and developing relevant community mission statements, according to Main Street America guidelines.

“Accreditation standards ensure that programs are approaching revitalization in a community-driven, place-based and people-focused manner through the Main Street approach,” Schmidt said.

Lancianese stressed that Explore Sewickley’s Main Street America accreditation is ongoing, given it continues to meet National Main Street Center criteria each year. In the process, she hopes her organization can fulfill its long-term goals.

“We would love to see the business district become even more of a vibrant, bustling area that attracts consistent foot traffic not only on the weekends, but weekdays as well. I would be confident to say that that is the number one thing that a business owner wants and needs to stay afloat in this challenging retail climate,” Lancianese said.

Sam Bojarski is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.