Economic Development

Lisbon Aims to Enhance Downtown ‘Gift’

LISBON, Ohio – Since opening her Tails of the Town pet-grooming salon in Lisbon in February, Carla Sadler hasn’t had a slow day.

When she was considering where to open her shop, she looked at market demographics as well as where there was a need for groomers. She also was attracted to the “small-town atmosphere” in Lisbon.

Sadler credits the success she has enjoyed so far to the welcoming environment of the village. Residents are grateful to have a local groomer so they don’t have to travel out of town for services. 

“Lisbon has been amazing to us,” she says.

Tails of the Town is one of about nine businesses that recently opened or are planning to this year, reports the president of the Lisbon Area Chamber of Commerce, Susan Shank. A restaurant and ice cream shop already have opened, and a brewery and coffee shop are expected to open soon.

“We have the wonderful gift of having a historical downtown that has the potential to be a walkable business district,” Shank says. “That’s one of our focuses right now, trying to get it back to that place where we believe it once was.”

Mayor Roger Gallo is positive about Lisbon’s future as well. After taking Pittsburgh historic-preservation specialist Arthur Ziegler on a walking tour of Lisbon, Zeigler told the mayor that the village is sitting on “a gold mine,” he says.  

“That’s contingent on somebody who wants to make those improvements,” he says.

 The village benefits from its access to U.S. Route 30, which brings many people to the community, as well as its architecture.

 “We get a lot of traffic, folks traversing though here from all over the country and even abroad,” he continues. “It impresses us, the sheer volume and diversity of the folks who come through.” 

 The Lisbon chamber and the village stage activities once a month to bring people into town, says Marilyn McCullough, chamber executive director.These include the recent Johnny Appleseed Festival and the upcoming Zombies Take Lisbon event, scheduled for Oct. 26.

 The chamber is in the third year of a contract with Town Center Associates, a consulting firm, to look at the property guidelines business owners are required to follow as well as issues such as vacancies and signage.

 Last year, the village enacted a vacant-building ordinance governing downtown properties that requires owners to market their properties and bring them up to code. The village also invested in underground utilities and installing period light poles.

 “We’re trying to encourage people to either rent their property or to sell it. We have some folks that are interested in these properties,” Mayor Gallo says. 

The village has building owners such as Courthouse Inn & Restaurant owner Renee Lewis, Ben Dickey and Jim Smith, who are “doing yeoman’s work” on downtown properties.

 “We’ve got folks putting millions of dollars into projects and then we’ve got an adjacent property that won’t even wash their windows,” Gallo says. “It’s not fair to the folks that are making the investment.”

 The intent of the building ordinance isn’t to fine property owners, he continues. The village wants to work with property owners on the upgrades, although the mayor acknowledges some of them could be cost-prohibitive.

 “Nobody expects somebody to go out and get deep in debt on a maybe,” he says.

The chamber also is taking a direct role in reinvestment through its Lisbon Landmark Foundation, a 501(c)3 that acquires properties to rehabilitate them for sale. 

The foundation has acquired the Nace Pharmacy building on North Market Street and is seeking grants to assist with that rehabilitation.

“They’re wanting to make the structure sound,” McCullough says. 

Once that’s accomplished, the foundation will sell the building to an end user that will build out the property for its specific purpose. The foundation would use proceeds from that sale to buy other properties for rehabilitation.

Already, property owners interested in selling their buildings have approached the foundation, McCullough says.  

At the same time, business people are taking downtown renovations into their own hands. Lewis, who owns the Courthouse Inn & Restaurant, is in the process of renovating the old Morgan Drug Store building. At 15,000 square feet, the building is the largest in downtown, she says. 

“I’m just wanting to repurpose a building and make it beautiful,” Lewis says.

Plans for the Phoenix Project, as the building is being called, to include an art gallery, an apothecary, an art studio for Lewis, an office for her attorney, a jeweled interior waterfall and five New York City-style loft apartments.

The renovation has involved putting doors and windows back to their original locations from when the building was constructed in 1810.

“We’re a couple of months out from completion; we’ll be completed by winter,” Lewis says. Once the building is finished, she will begin interviewing tenants for the loft apartments. 

The chamber’s Shank also points to expansions by businesses that include Numbers Brewing Co. and AIG Worldwide.

Other enhancements to the village include a new park adjacent to the parking area for the Greenway Trail head, just off South Market Street. The Beaver Creek Association of Realtors and the Youngstown Columbiana Association of Realtors secured a $5,000 grant for the park from the National Association of Realtors.

Both real estate groups along with the Lisbon Chamber are contributing funds to the project, which will feature a pergola, seating and signage showing the trail route and a map of downtown Lisbon.

“We get a quarter-million people a year going across the bike trial from all over,” Gallo says. 

Seeing the improvements taking place in Lisbon has started to inspire property owners, Shank says. The chamber was getting “inundated” with phone calls from individuals asking what they need to do to get their properties up to code or presentable to be rented.

“We’re very excited to be in a town that is growing,” Sadler says. “As long as we’re growing, there’s room for us to grow.”

Pictured: Marilyn McCullough and Susan Shank, executive director and president, respectively, of the Lisbon Area Chamber of Commerce stand in front of a mural depicting the county seat of Columbiana County. 

Copyright 2019 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.