Bryan Rotary Club met virtually on Friday, Feb. 19. Speakers Russ Davies and Kevin Maynard discussed the Bryan Development Foundation and how it is alive and thriving. Original Bryan Development members, fellow Rotarians George Brown and Tom Voigt, joined the conversation.

In 1976, the Bryan Development Corporation strived to enrich the City of Bryan square through collaboration with Heritage Ohio (heritageohio.org). Through their work, Bowling Green State University created the Ohio State Guideline Book, also called Historic District Guidelines Book. Using the book’s guidelines, the corporation and businesses revitalized the area around the square and returned the beauty of the original architecture. Companies collaborated by removing large, flashy signs and painting or renovating buildings; Uhlman’s and Ohio Gas removed their building façade to expose the original building.

For 45 years, the corporation advocated aesthetic projects by encouraging building owners and businesses around the square to keep the historic look, add celebration flags and use unobtrusive signage. The community has enjoyed the renovations that include the Bard Family Fountain and the bandstand — not to mention all of the seating and walking paths. The revitalization of the square has brought life to downtown.

Today, the Bryan Development Foundation, a merger of like-minded groups in 2020, has 18 board members and seven dedicated teams. The foundation’s mission is to enrich the Bryan community’s lives by encouraging economic activity, preservation, health, wealth and community pride. Working closely with the City of Bryan and the Bryan Area Chamber of Commerce, the foundation sponsors cleanup days, removes graffiti and creates events such as the Alive After 5 program. In collaboration with the chamber, they have offered entrepreneur seminars to assist members to adapt to the 21st century, such as a class on how to use QuickBooks.

The seven foundation teams consist of: building acquisition and renovation; business retention, expansion, attraction; business advisory team; finance/funding; infrastructure; marketing; and events. In November 2020, on the north side of the square, the Long Building Restoration Project began with other plans ready to be implemented.

An ongoing economic activity is the Alive After 5 programs: These events promote functions around the square working with the city and the chamber. The health and wealth team is ensuring, and where needed, creating, pedestrian-friendly walkway initiatives and wealth opportunities by encouraging the entrepreneurial spirit.

The original Historic Guidelines Book was an excellent guide for 50 years, but commerce has changed in the 21st century. It is time Bryan adapted and allowed creativity to flourish with complementary downtown businesses. The Foundation has submitted numerous modifications to the city engineer’s historical code, to be forwarded, if approved, to the city attorney.

But the foundation can only do so much on its own, the speakers told the club. It takes a community to become involved through support as volunteers, donations, assisting fundraisers and identifying projects. Annual membership costs $65. Every resident of the City of Bryan has a unique contribution to ensure the foundation and city’s success. More information can be obtained from bryandevelopment.org. A copy of the original Historic District Guidelines Book is available at the Williams County Public Library.

Bryan Rotary Club thanked Davies and Maynard for their informative presentation and will donate a book in their honor to the Williams County Public Library. The club’s next virtual meeting will include guest speaker Chantel Dominique from Bloom Kid’s Closet. To join the virtual meeting, send an email to bryanohiorotary@gmail.com.

(Information courtesy of Bryan Rotary Club)

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