Building a Better Boyertown (BBB) was in the spotlight at the 24th Annual Boyertown Area Progress Dinner on Jan. 21 in recognition of its accomplishments during 2008.TriCounty Area Chamber President P. Timothy Phelps, Berks County Commissioners Christian Y. Leinbach and Kevin S. Barnhardt presented the James K. Quality of Life Award to BBB President Charles Haddad and Main Street Manager Heather Oxenford at the event held at LaMassaria at Bella Vista Golf Course in New Hanover Township.

"Good things do not happen by themselves; it takes good people," Haddad said during the presentation.

"We are fortunate to have good people in Boyertown to make things happen."

BBB, a non-profit organization, started in 2002, as the result of Mayor Marianne Deery's vision.

"We needed to do something to revitalize the town to attract more businesses and increase the tax

The volunteers of BBB, working with the Borough of Boyertown, developed a revitalization plan, allowing the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development to accept Boyertown into the Main Street Program.

Main Street programs are part of the state renewal effort to improve downtown communities through a four-point approach of design, organization, promotion and economic restructuring.

Haddad described how BBB started its enhancements with the creation and installation of welcome signs at the four entrances into town.

Boyertown artist David Larson designed the wrought iron signs to resemble a porch, a familiar sight in the town. David Parish, owner of the Iron Monger, used scrap metal from a former playground, to build the signs, which civic clubs maintain.

"We realized, however, that we needed more than porches and welcome signs," Haddad said. "We needed physical improvements and people grabbing events."

BBB's plan includes preserving and restoring the Victorian architecture of the buildings, particularly those located near the main intersection of Philadelphia and Reading Avenues, also known as Boyer's corner.

Business and property owners made approximately 27 façade improvements using $75,000 in grant funds and about $100,000 in private investments. Improvements included the addition of new ramps, doors, and windows, painting, minor repairs, and planters.

BBB revived the entrances of the borough's inner core parking lot by adding benches, planters and walkways.

"The Rhudes (Kevin and Dawn) recently purchased the State Theatre," Haddad told the 200 persons in attendance. "This will become a main attraction to Boyertown with the continuation of movies and the addition of live performances by local theatre groups."

Future plans include a $3 million streetscape project to improve the seven-block area surrounding Boyer's Corner. The streetscape will include the addition of brick walkways, plantings and Victorian-style lighting. BBB secured grant funds for these improvements.

BBB also assisted the Borough in purchasing the two-acre railroad parcel near the existing railroad tracks. BBB secured grant monies to renovate the area when it knows the fate of the rail line.

To attract more people to town and promote community spirit, BBB hosts numerous special events such as Coming Out of Hibernation, Art on the Avenues, Farmer's Market Days, Cruise Night, Dog Days of Summer, Oktoberfest and Chillin' on Main.

Additionally, BBB coordinates specials and activities with local restaurants and businesses for Third Saturday events each month.

With the improvements and additional activities, BBB attracted several new businesses to the borough, including The Hard Bean CafÃ&Copy;, Boyertown Produce, Lily Nails, Beauty by Design, Added Attractions, AFLAC, Spotted Dog Barkery and Zimmers Pets.

Studio B, an art gallery and teaching studio, opened its doors on Dec. 5 during the annual Holiday Town Tour. Its current exhibit, "The Farm," opened with a well attended reception on Jan. 16.

The Progress Dinner also highlighted two growing Boyertown area businesses: Martin Motor Sports and Serenity Junction. Boyertown Area Senior High students prepared a video presentation of these two entities for the dinner.

Martin Motorsports, founded by Flavio Corrocher and Dennis Martin, opened in 1996 in a small pole barn. They purchased the former Penn State Cycles store in Pottstown and sold 100 motorcycles and ATVs their first year.

Today, they are located in a 24,000 square foot building at 1037 Unger Lane, near the Bechtelsville Wal-Mart. In addition to motorcycles and ATVs, they sell accessories and clothes and have their own repair shop and showroom.

Serenity Junction Inc., Barto, created by husband and wife team, James and Kimberly Herman, has therapeutic equipment to help people reduce pain and stress and improve their overall well-being.

This therapeutic spa is available by appointment. The Hermans also sell the equipment for home and personal use and offer memberships to their facility.

To round out the evening, the Progress Dinner featured two community walks.

Angela Scheetz shared information about Boyertown's Second Annual Relay for Life event slated or June 26-27 at the Boyertown Senior High Bear Stadium to benefit the American Cancer Society.

"The Relay for Life walks are major fundraisers for the American Cancer Society," she said. "They are also avenues for support and hope and bring resources and education to the community."

Gigi Malinchak spoke about how the Unity Walk grew from 200 walkers in 2004 to more than 2,000 walkers in 2008. The event started in reaction to a hate crime, and it has grown into a positive community social event.

"Your participation shows that we are a welcoming community that cares," she said.

The Unity Walk is held the second Sunday in October and is free. Pre-walk activities, including performances, art and activities, are held at Boyertown Junior High West. Schools and local businesses are encouraged to participate in No Place for Hate Day on May 5, she said.

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