Downtown Partnership Outlines Priorities for 2022

Thursday Mar 3rd, 2022

The Erie Downtown Partnership held its annual membership meeting virtually with a message to members that outlines the nonprofit’s recent efforts to support the downtown experience as well as their new five-year Downtown Revitalization Strategy.

The Erie Downtown Partnership was pleased to report on three specific initiatives that advanced quality of place improvements in 2021.

Emily Fetcko, Acting CEO of the Erie Downtown Partnership says, “At last year’s annual meeting we referenced the idea of “radical hospitality” and the need to deploy a socio-economic response to the pandemic using a placemaking approach. We continue to pursue this idea and expanded in key placemaking areas to advance our mission of making downtown safe, fun and welcoming for all.”




Pictured L-R: Ambassadors Ashley McCallum, Jiwan Khanal, and John Yost.

The group introduced a Safety + Hospitality Ambassador program in September. Ambassadors deploy the maintenance services the Erie Downtown Partnership has long provided such as litter and weed abatement, graffiti removal, power washing and snow removal of City sidewalks, and tree and floral basket watering. The Ambassadors have ongoing training to complement the growing needs of a downtown experiencing new investment, more business openings, and increases in residential living to include visitor assistance and information, business outreach, unhomed and vulnerable individual assistance, as well as site preparations for our events throughout the year.

The Ambassadors are supervised by John Yost as part of the national StreetPlus program. Last year the team removed over 70,000 pounds of litter and debris from downtown, spent over 4,500 hours on cleaning and beautification, and over 700 hours removing snow from sidewalks. The team recently invested in additional snow removal equipment that will allow each Ambassador to remove more snow much more quickly.

The Ambassadors also provide quality of life interactions and provided over 75 hours of guest assistance including offering directions, escorting guests to parking areas, and assisting residents and businesses. September through December they conducted 60 business check-ins and 60 quality of life interactions with unhomed or vulnerable individuals.

The Ambassador program is funded by Erie Bank, Marquette Savings Bank, the Erie Community Foundation, and the Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority and the Erie Downtown Partnership is pursuing expanding the team from four to 12 team members over the next few years.



Pictured: A couple enjoys a bit of Polka dancing at the first Polka concert held in Perry Square last summer.

Activating the downtown and creating engaging events is an essential part of the Erie Downtown Partnership’s placemaking work. Last year they created and managed 100 events and activities hosting an event almost every day of the week.

All new events introduced last year were informed by surveys and qualitative data gathered throughout 2019 and into 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic. This has enabled us to plan events that are more engaging, diverse, and equitable to those that use our downtown every day. New events introduced in 2021 included Movies in the Park and the Back to the Music series.

The Erie Downtown Partnership hosted 330 hours of programming including farmers markets, fitness classes, concerts, lectures, sporting leagues, free movies, craft fairs, vinyl nights, and more. Over 25,000 people collectively attended events in Perry Square, Griswold Park, the Bayfront, and indoor locations such as the Boston Store, the Cashier’s House, and several downtown small businesses. Events such as the Farmers’ Market, Downtown Fall Fest and Downtown d’Lights continue to grow.

Dave Tamulonis, Events and Marketing Manager, says, “Events like the Farmers Markets and Small Business Saturday engaged not only thousands of attendees each but several hundred vendors, small businesses, farms, volunteers, and musicians; all of whom are now energized by the activity they have seen downtown, feel a sense of pride in Erie, and are more likely to continue contributing to that progress.”

Over 60 businesses were engaged with downtown programming and participant feedback has been very positive. The Farmer’s Market more than doubled their sales, including doubling the SNAP/EBT sales at the market.

The Erie Downtown Partnership has worked to ensure that all programming reflects the community, inviting BIPOC artists and vendors to participate in events ranging from Muslim musicians to Black-owned food vendors.

Tamulonis adds that, “We’ve actively tried to remove barriers to participation including setting performance fees and standards that ensure that minorities including Black, LGBTQ+, and women are fairly compensated as historically these performers typically ask for less than other performers.”


In August the Erie Downtown Partnership dedicated the sculptural gateway at 3rd and State Streets, titled “Points of Reference”. The piece was inspired by the local spirit of endurance and perseverance from Erie’s pivotal role in the American Revolution and the industrial revolution to present day coming together to fight the COVID-19 virus as a community.

The planning process started in 2018 and included five public input sessions and was delayed by the pandemic. The Erie Downtown Partnership collaborated with a team of engineers, artists, and fabricators virtually. The sculpture was designed by California-based artistic team Aphidoidea led by artists Jesus Eduardo Magaña and Paulina Bouyer-Magaña.

Five local businesses participated in fabricating and installing the sculpture, and 74% of the project’s costs were expensed locally and 5% were expensed regionally. This is the first City-owned public art piece and serves as a sculptural time capsule with the storytelling graphics laser cut into the sculptures’ sleeves. There are also different languages included on the sculpture translating the word “home.” There’s even a graphic to mark the pandemic.

 Fetcko adds, “This is our third public art project to be introduced downtown in the last three years. The sculpture piece is a unique project and the meaning behind it feels more timely than ever given the pandemic.”

This project was funded through UPMC Health Plan, the Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority, and the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.


The Erie Downtown Partnership convened small businesses individually and in groups, to explore what radical hospitality could look like in downtown Erie.

Through their pilot planning project titled Designing for Distance + Dignity the Erie Downtown Partnership involved stakeholders in the downtown’s Renaissance District to learn more about how underutilized space could be reimagined to reflect and support a vibrant arts and culture sector and an entrepreneurial ecosystem that depends on a robust sense of community. With funding from the National Parks Service and Erie Arts and Culture, this six-month planning process elevated important conversations about how community members coexist with each other. It also produced innovative ideas around underutilized public space and placemaking as a tool to implement those innovative ideas.

This participatory design process catalyzed the Erie Downtown Partnership’s new five-year Downtown Revitalization Strategy centered on public space activation.

The strategy’s 2022 priorities include sustaining the Safety + Hospitality Ambassador Program, creating a new marketing campaign to support small businesses and downtown as a destination, growing their events programming from 100 to 150 events, and developing a multi-site public space design and use plan.


The Erie Downtown Partnership also recognized downtown members who made a specific difference in the downtown community in 2021 with CARE Awards. Introduced in 2019 the Care About Revitalizing Erie (CARE) Awards honor those who contribute to the downtown experience in positive and unique ways.

This year the organization was pleased to recognize UPMC Health Plan and UPMC Hamot for their financial support of the 3rd and State Street Gateway Sculpture as well as their financial support as a signature sponsor for the annual Downtown d’Lights holiday event, where they also administered 45 COVID-19 vaccines and boosters at the event.

Radius Cowork was honored for the exceptional community building among their 100+ coworking members during the pandemic as well as their participation and advocacy of special projects and programs that support both the economic vitality and quality of life in downtown Erie. Radius Cowork continues to build a dynamic community of leaders not just within their professions, but within their community.

Café 7-10 was recognized for their regular participation in community events and for the resilience they have shown as a new business that opened the summer before the pandemic. They adapted to taking pick-up and delivery orders as well as invested in their façade with fun, new signage. They continue to attend all Erie Downtown Partnership events selling their sweet treats to the public year-round.


Two important projects will begin this year leveraging the symbiotic relationship between the built environment and public space working closely with the City of Erie.


Pictured: New signage went up at Café 7-10 last year partially funded by the Erie Downtown Partnership’s façade improvement reimbursement grant. The business is located at 710 West 10th Street in downtown Erie.

The first project is the creation of the Downtown Design Guidelines and Standards to elevate the built environment. This project is being funded by the Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority and the State Historic Preservation Office. An advisory committee recently hired Cleveland-based firm Perspectus to facilitate the planning process and guidelines development.

The guidelines will explore the architecture and neighborhood characteristics of buildings along downtown’s “Main Street” on both the East and West sides of State Street from Second Street up to 14th Street. Design Guidelines support the organization’s revitalization strategy as they look to maximize the efforts of their own façade reimbursement grant program as well as the Neighborhood Assistance Program Enterprise Zone and Historic Preservation Tax Credits. These guidelines will advise on trends of deterioration and provide mitigation recommendations. Studies show that downtowns that have design guidelines tend to have higher property values and retain their value through economic fluctuations. Design guidelines also create a robust sense of place and attract more customers into downtown’s small businesses.

As part of the guideline development process, there will be two public work sessions, with the first one scheduled for March 10th at 7 PM at City Council Chambers. This initial public session will provide an overview of the project and the benefits of good design controls within a downtown. This session is open to the public both virtually and in-person, with online registration required.

The second planning project will be the Engaged + Energized Public Space Plan. The community-informed planning process will begin this year looking at how the community wants to use public space across three anchor sites. These sites will include Griswold Park, Perry Square, and another site to be chosen by the public.

Fetcko says, “As we continue to respond to the challenges of this ongoing pandemic, public space has become a much more valuable and needed consideration when we look to inform the downtown experience and support both downtown’s economic vitality and quality of life.”

The planning process will explore what infrastructure, amenities, and programming are needed to activate downtown with energized spaces and engaging programming.

This project is funded by the National Main Street Center and the Erie Downtown Partnership.

The Erie Downtown Partnership’s 2021 Impact Report is available to view at their web site.