Erie Downtown Partnership announces the launch of the first Safety + Hospitality Ambassador program dedicated to place management services.
The initial pilot team of four ambassadors will provide cleaning services, visitor assistance, event support, and business outreach within the 70-block Downtown Improvement District, with a service footprint from the Bayfront to 14th Street and over from Holland to Sassafras Streets.
John Buchna, CEO with the Erie Downtown Partnership says, “This program is really about leveling up our cleaning services and offering business and guest assistance throughout the district to strengthen communication and proactively serve our members.”
The ambassador program is managed on behalf of the Erie Downtown Partnership by StreetPlus, a nationally recognized program serving 100 Downtown Improvement Districts across the country.
“They have a tested and proven methodology that aligns with our mission and values. They’ve been engaged with our community over the last three years and have visited Erie to understand our needs on a number of occasions.”
The new pilot team of ambassadors will be supervised by John Yost, who’s been the Erie Downtown Partnership’s maintenance supervisor for the last four years and will transition to the Ambassador team as Program Supervisor. He will be responsible for overseeing the work of the three new team members.
The ambassadors will work in two shifts with two team members working 6 AM to 2:30 PM Monday through Friday and two team members working noon to 8:30 PM Tuesday through Saturday.
The new shifts will help with routine coverage and assisting the needs of various downtown stakeholders. The evening and Friday/Saturday shifts will support visitors and guests who are downtown for entertainment and cultural events.
Ambassadors will have downtown routes to provide observations and interventions regarding the standard of care, cleanliness, existing and potential blight, safety hazards and areas of concern, as well as interacting with individuals in need or experiencing homelessness.
The team will continue cleaning duties as well as respond to service tickets such as graffiti removal, weeding and mulching, litter issues, and hazardous debris, or reporting vandalism.
The ambassadors are also collaborating with the City of Erie Police Department’s Saturation Team, which includes downtown bike patrols and routes.
“The Erie Downtown Partnership’s new Downtown Safety Ambassador Program is a huge step toward making real the third element of our Vision, that Erie has a World-class Downtown and Bayfront,” said Mayor Joe Schember. “I met with the four Ambassadors recently. They will not
only keep downtown clean, but they will also develop good relationships with downtown businesses and help people who are most in need in our community. Thanks to John Buchna, Emily Fetcko, Dave Tamulonis, and the entire Erie Downtown Partnership for putting this program together.”
Ambassadors will also interact with the public assisting visitors and guests with directions and recommendations, escorting visitors to businesses or venues, providing information, and engaging with businesses.
Event set-up and support is also a crucial service of the program as the Erie Downtown Partnership currently offers over 100 events ranging from wellness programs and a farmers’ market to festivals and live entertainment.
Ambassadors received 40 hours of training on customer service, emergency response and first aid, safety best practices, reporting, and public interaction as well as had five hours of downtown familiarity training. Training will be ongoing for the ambassadors as needed and quarterly training is part of regular ambassador skills and orientation development.
Small businesses in downtown have been supportive of the new program, which was in direct response to addressing their needs through and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Amanda Duncan, Community Leader with Radius Co-work, a coworking space serving over 100 small business members in the heart of downtown agrees. Duncan says, “The Erie Downtown Partnership is the only organization working to strategically address these issues. Especially over the past year, they have engaged businesses such as ours and our members’ businesses to understand how best to utilize their resources to support Erie’s downtown. They have identified several strategic initiatives that will begin to address our collective concerns and as businesses welcome customers and employees back downtown.”
Mabel Howard, owner of Café 7-10 adds, “Café 7-10 is in a critical area where we are seeing more unhomed people gather along the 10th street corridor to include, but not limited to, the entrances of most of our businesses when we are not open. EDP is looking to create a solution to changing perceptions and proactively supporting businesses.”
This impact on downtown’s quality of life and economic vitality is what attracted funders of the program to support it. The Safety + Hospitality Ambassador Program is generously supported by the Erie Community Foundation, ERIEBANK, and Marquette Savings Bank.
Karen Bilowith, President of the Erie Community Foundation, is in proud support of this program explaining, “It was an easy decision for the Erie Community Foundation to support the Erie Downtown Partnership’s new Safety + Hospitality Ambassador Program. This program supports downtown’s transformation as more residential and commercial investments are being made and will help elevate the standard of care to ensure downtown is a welcoming destination for residents, businesses, and visitors.”
As downtown businesses both ERIEBANK and Marquette Savings Bank saw the value in investing in programs that support their customer base and investments throughout downtown.
“Downtown Erie is at the core of the revitalization efforts of our community. We are vested in downtown, and we want to work collaboratively with others to ensure the success of Erie. These new ambassadors are part of the Erie Downtown Partnership’s plan to help better downtown and the community as a whole. ERIEBANK is a proud supporter of this program to aid in the efforts to transform Erie,” said David Zimmer President of ERIEBANK.
Mike Edwards, Chief Executive Officer of Marquette Savings Bank, agrees, “with the recent expansion of our headquarters located at 10th & Peach Streets, and as an investor in the Erie Downtown Development Corporation, we see the work of the Erie Downtown Partnership and the new ambassador program as a vital component that will have a significant impact as we work together to ensure a safe, clean, and vibrant downtown”.
Buchna says that resources will continue to go to small business support and recovery efforts adding that “it’s our goal to grow this team from four ambassadors to 12 to have as much saturation and provide as much service to stakeholders as possible in the next three years.”
Since 2004 the Erie Downtown Partnership has been facilitating placemaking experiences to create community building, economic vitality, and foster inclusive opportunities for downtown employees, residents, and visitors to access these experiences.
The Erie Downtown Partnership is a 501(c) 3 nonprofit designated as both a Downtown Improvement District and a Main Street program through Pennsylvania’s Department of Community and Economic Development’s Keystone Communities program.
The Erie Downtown Partnership creates an environment where people and business can thrive in Erie’s downtown. As a nationally accredited Main Street organization by the National Main Street Center, the nonprofit is committed to making downtown Erie safe, fun, and welcoming utilizing the Main Street Five-Point Approach.
Contact: John Buchna, (814) 455-3743, firstname.lastname@example.org