EASTON — The Easton Economic Development Corporation is officially taking control of all town events, while it plans to build a courtyard downtown and increase investment in local businesses, cementing its presence as the lead economic organization after grabbing the reins from Discover Easton last month.
At a Nov. 18 meeting, the EEDC’s Downtown Development Committee laid out its long-term economic development plan for downtown Easton, with a goal to implement its big ideas for small businesses and the local economy by 2021.
In its biggest move, the EEDC announced they will handle all future events in Easton. Natalie Slater, the communications manager for EEDC, said nothing will change about the beloved town events — traditionally hosted by Discover Easton.
“First and foremost, town-supported events are not going away,” she said. “And in fact, we will be adding new events in 2021.”
Organizations and partners will have to first go through the EEDC for all event approval and funding, Slater said.
It is unclear what Discover Easton’s role will be in the future, now that they no longer have control or planning over town events.
After Mayor Robert Willey shifted Discover Easton’s budget to the EEDC last month, giving them full control over the nonprofit’s funds, Jeff Lankford, the previous marketing and development director at Discover Easton, left to join the EEDC.
Meanwhile, the EEDC is plowing ahead as the lead economic organization. The Downtown Development Committee created three special work groups to explore downtown revitalization and growth going into next year.
One group will handle local businesses, while a second will raise funds and develop resources and volunteers to support the economy. A third will look at creating a courtyard downtown.
The workgroups will meet once a month, and all ideas will be vetted through the Downtown Development Committee before landing in front of the town council.
The long-term vision for EEDC includes sprucing up the downtown area by beautifying it with outdoor seating, incentivizing more tourism through signage and outreach, and creating a roundtable to discuss how to better host traditional events and create new ones.
Chairman Scott Beatty said the downtown work groups will spark growth and prosperity.
“I’ve worked in downtown Easton for over 50 years so I can ensure you I am passionate about its success,” he said. “Clearly downtown Easton is the focal point of our town and county. Our mission is to incorporate the economic development of downtown as part of a comprehensive strategy for the entire town of Easton.”
The largest project is a proposed courtyard inside the interior square block between Washington, Dover, Goldsborough and Harrison Streets. The area is currently used for parking.
Tracy Ward, the executive director of EEDC, said a workgroup will “explore the potential for adapting these spaces for something that will be pedestrian friendly.”
“This can provide additional seating downtown and additional opportunities for businesses to capture new revenues,” she said, adding that it is “more of a long-term project that will require some study and quite a lot of cooperation from a number of businesses and property owners.”
The EEDC approved the idea to pursue the project earlier this year and created a special committee led by Lynn Thomas, the planner for Easton. In the Nov. 18 presentation, the EEDC said the courtyard could “define Easton’s downtown core for generations.”
The idea for a courtyard was initially proposed for Easton in the 1990s, and the EEDC plans to use that original concept as a model for the new design plan.