Erie Downtown Partnership Launches Ambassador Program

John Buchna

Thursday Oct 14th, 2021


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,