COLUMBIANA – Students in the Creative Entrepreneurship class at Columbiana High School are turning a downtown alley into a pedestrian walkway.
The city’s progress committee had been pursuing the idea of converting East Mulberry Alley between Main Street and Walnut Alley into a pedestrian-only public destination, says Lance Willard, city manager of Columbiana. The committee asked the entrepreneurship class for ideas. The students devised public presentations on how to do it.
After gaining the approval of the progress committee in early April, the 11-person entrepreneurship class is now working on the project, which will be paid for by a $23,500 grant from the Columbiana Community Foundation, Willard says.
The group asked fellow Columbiana High students for ideas on what to name the alley, says senior Daniel Wilczak, who is part of the entrepreneur class. It settled on Columbiana Corridor.
Tricia Missos, who teaches the entrepreneurship class, brainstormed the idea with her students. One of the items the students proposed for the alleyway is installing phone-charging stations. They pondered if solar energy could be used, but opted for electricity after the group realized the alleyway was usually in the shade.
The 18-foot wide by 80-foot long alley will also feature three 4-foot by 8-foot chalkboards attached to the brick walls, a lighted Columbiana Corridor sign at the entrance off Main Street, and a water fountain.
Menu boards from area restaurants and a geotag are some of the other early ideas for the alley. A geotag is an electronic assignment to a geographical location to photos or videos for posting on social media. Outdoor seating, a canvas ceiling, firepits, an aquarium, a television screen and a retractable roof are other items on the students’ wish list.
Willard says the placement of outdoor furniture can be explored further once the group receives a quote. The group has already obtained quotes for two other ideas: an aquarium for $4,249; and a smart television for $5,000. The TV would be enclosed in a weather-proof casing.
“They have some really great ideas we need to use,” Willard says.
The city is constantly looking to improve its public spaces, he adds.
Town Center Associates, a consulting firm from Beaver, Pa., has worked with officials to attract people to the city, which boasts a population of more than 6,000. One improvement already installed are speakers mounted on three blocks of Main Street that play seasonal music for shoppers, Willard says.
In addition, programmable LED lights have been mounted along Main Street downtown that create season-specific visuals. The $40,000 project was installed last year, Willard says.
“We’re trying to make a stroll down Main Street an experience,” he says.
Willard foresees the next Columbiana High School entrepreneur class undertaking the downtown parking lot on Main Street. Adding trees, plantings and fences is part of the plan, he says. Outdoor movies could be shown there as well.
Students from the Columbiana County Career and Technical Center are interested in being part of these beautification projects, the city manager says.
Right now, the focus is the stretch of East Mulberry Alley. The city will take over the project once the Columbiana students graduate in May.
“We want the kids to be able to see some progress,” Willard says. “Maybe other people will get interested in and start donating either time or money toward it.”
Donations are always welcome for these ventures, class member Wilczak says. One fundraising idea is to have patrons’ names put on paving bricks that will be placed around the fountain for a fee.
The entrepreneurship class has changed the outlooks of those participating, says Cameron Sloan, a member of the class. Sloan, who will attend Kent State University in the fall, had been unsure of whether to major in engineering or business. But the alleyway project solidified him on a business path.
People around Columbiana should invest in these beautification projects because Reader’s Digest proclaimed this town “The Nicest Place in America” in 2019, Sloan says.
“We already won the best town in America. So why not get better?” he asks.
Pictured: Students in the entrepreneurship class at Columbiana High School stand in an alley off Main Street that they would like to turn into a gathering place. Front row, from left are: Zhenya Motry, Cameron Sloan, Jessica Himes and Bre Yerke. In the back row are Collin Schick, Daniel Wiczak, Johnny Ervin, Tyler Andersen and Ava Bryant.