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Gervais downtown thriving two years after city hall's groundbreaking

Two years after the city of Gervais unveiled its new and improved City Hall, the mayor says it’s had snowball effect on beautification efforts throughout the downtown area.

“One by one the owners came out and started painting their buildings,” Mayor Shanti Platt said. “It wasn’t something we really had to campaign for or anything. It was just that sense of self-pride. Here’s this beautiful new building.”

Since the structure was dedicated on March 31, 2012, Platt estimates a half dozen buildings have gotten a makeover — which is essentially every business downtown.

The link between the new City Hall going up and downtown businesses getting painted or renovated is “unquestionable,” the mayor said, comparing it to the movie “Field of Dreams.”

“He says, ‘Build it and they will come,’” she said. “This is the ‘City Hall of Dreams.’ We built it and the rest of the city down Main Street came out. ... When they saw the completed project, I think that gave inspiration and I think it continues to give inspiration.”

Besides that, it’s not only businesses getting on board, she said. Residents too have taken note of the downtown makeover and begun beautifying their own homes as well.

She noted, however, that the City Hall project was not one that came together overnight. Planning for the structure began back in 1994 and went through nearly two decades of preparation before coming to fruition in 2012.

They are at last now reaping in the benefits.

Aside from the building’s aesthetic and its ripple effect on the community, the new setup has condensed all of the city departments into one place and bolstered government efficiency. Beyond that, Platt said, it opened up more space and expanded what the facility could be used for.

“The old building was just so small you couldn’t accommodate folks that came in for conference type meetings or maybe some of the local 501c meetings,” she said. “They used to try to coordinate them with the school but lots of times school activities were going on and there was just really no place for them to meet.

“Now they can meet here,” she said. “They have a conference room set up. If they need video capacity they can use that.”

She added that the chamber has had all of its furniture put on wheels so it can be converted into a larger room, if need be. This makes the space much more flexible and can accommodate things like teaching conferences or even a wedding.

The space can be morphed into anything they need, she said.

Another huge benefit is that the police department has moved to the public works area and got two new garages, allowing officers to drive in through the front and out through the back. Before, they had to pull things into a shed to make room and move stuff around to have space to back out.

“It just serves the people,” she said. “I don’t know how else to say it.”

Platt reminisces fondly about the groundbreaking ceremony two years back when a mass of citizens lined up to take a swing at the bricks. Although the mayor of a city will often be the one clanking the hammer around, Platt opened the ceremonial event up to the people.

“My thing was, ‘This really is your city hall,’” she said. “‘We’ve been the stewards of the money that you pay with your taxes. This benefits the people that work for you on a daily basis. Help us bring it down so the new one can go up.’ And people just had a ball.”

The best part about it all though, she said, is there is still momentum growing.

“This wonderful thing doesn’t have to stop here,” she said. “We can continue to beautify.”



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