Tuesday, August 05, 2008

News--Gettysburg's Steinwehr Merchants Watch Cash Registers After Visitor Center's Move of Less Than One Mile Away

Steinwehr Business: Gettysburg Visitor Center Move Hurts Strip, Erin James, The Evening Sun, August 1, 2008.

Gettysburg business leaders are bracing for the potential negative impact of the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center's recent move away from Steinwehr Avenue by pursuing a revitalization project of the tourist hub. In fact, that was the premise of a grant application submitted by Main Street Gettysburg to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said USDA spokeswoman Rosemarie Massa.

On Thursday, the federal agency announced it will award $70,000 in grant money to "complete a revitalization plan for the small businesses which will be negatively affected by the relocation," according to a USDA press release. Main Street Gettysburg executive director Deb Adamik said the visitor center's move is not the only reason Steinwehr Avenue is in need of funding, but it is the most obvious, she said.

"You're taking a base of thousands of visitors farther away," she said. Gettysburg officials, headed by Main Street, announced in June that they had secured $215,000 toward the project's planning phase, but they didn't specify at the time where the grants were coming from. Adamik said Thursday that the USDA's $70,000 was included among the original total and that the sources of other grants would announce their own donations at a later time.

The potential for tourists to abandon Steinwehr Avenue as a shopping destination now that the visitor center has moved was vaguely mentioned as a reason for beginning the revitalization project when it was announced in September 2007 and when its status was updated in June. The street is due for a new look and new infrastructure, planners said. But Massa said the gist of Main Street's application to the USDA suggests a stronger sentiment among business leaders to address growing concerns about the visitor center's move. Fears about declining business on Steinwehr Avenue as a result of the visitor center's move date back to the project's planning phase.

At that time, the National Park Service came under attack from residents and business owners concerned the facility would lure tourists away from the downtown area and already established tourist sites along Steinwehr Avenue - just down the street from the visitor center's original location. In response, park Superintendent John Latschar said the Park Service was committed to creating a shuttle system to take tourists to the Eisenhower National Historic Site and into Gettysburg. And he said he believed the new facility would encourage visitors to extend their stay and spend more money around town.

Groundbreaking on the new site off of Hunt Avenue and Baltimore Pike commenced in summer 2005, and the visitor center opened April 14 of this year. But when tourism season kicked off in May, many Steinwehr business owners wouldn't say whether they expected the visitor center's move to negatively impact the street. Some even said they felt the potential impact had been overestimated. At the time, the head of the Steinwehr Avenue Business Alliance said it was "too early to tell." But earlier this week, Tom Crist said there's evidence the original fears were well-founded.

In fact, he attributed this year's slow business to two reasons - the state of the economy and the opening of the new visitor center. "(Tourists are) not coming down Steinwehr Avenue right now," said Crist, who owns Flex and Flanigan's at 240 Steinwehr Ave. Adamik said she hasn't spoken with "too many" business owners yet about the impact so far of the visitor center's move. But she suspects the economy is the "overriding issue" in preventing visitors from spending money downtown. "They just don't have as much money as they used to as disposable income," she said.

Source: Evening Sun, August 1, 2008.

CWL: The closest hotels, restaurants, bus tours and tee-shirt stores to the new Visitors Center are on Steinwehr and Taneytown Avenues where they intersect with Baltimore Street still. If you take an auto tour, the last stop is two hundred yards from Steinwehr Avenue still. CWL has been in Gettysburg 8 days in July. The Ghost Tours appearing to be booming; they are located on Steinwehr. Now if the Ghost Tours would move downtown, then Steinwehr merchants would suffer a drop in sales.

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