Revitalizing Mercer Street, putting a new face on Princeton - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Revitalizing Mercer Street, putting a new face on Princeton

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It was once a booming center if Mercer County. Now it's full of empty lots and vacant buildings.

What will it take for Mercer  Street in downtown Princeton to become what it once was? 59News reporter Lauren Hensley is speaking with local business's owners to hear what they think could help revitalize the area.
 
Tucked in Princeton Library are black and white photographs of Mercer Street from the 1930s. The photo shows a booming street corner with lots of shopping and business.  But decades later, Mercer Street isn't even close to what it once was.  Those buildings that were once built up are now being boarded up.

Mercer Street was once the epicenter of Princeton bustling full of people and businesses.  These day it looks more like ghost town.  Businesses are opting out of uptown and building along the outskirts of the city. Stafford Drive and Courthouse Road areas are full of commercial shops, restaurants and stores.  

"There's two Sheetz stores, there's about 30 empty stores here on Mercer Street," Shawn Mann the owner of the Music Exchanged located on Mercer Street said.  He has owned the exchange for 17 years.

59News Reporter Lauren Hensley asked, "over the passed 17 years what have you seen happen to Mercer Street?"

Mann immediately responded, "Decay! There is just nobody that will stand up and take responsibility and say yes we will clean this up, or yes we will get rid of the prostitutes or yes we will get rid of the people who go door to door, they are people who come in here everyday asking for change."

It's no secret that Mercer Street is known for drugs, prostitutes and the homeless, which is not good for business.

"It has gotten so bad on Mercer Street people don't want to take their kids here. We've got a beautiful park down here and have music in there square and people don't want to come," Mann said.

Mann explained he would like to see a stronger police presence targeted Mercer Street.  He also said the city of Princeton needs to offer incentives and rewards to those who wish to build their business on Mercer Street.

Some business owners said over the passed few months they are seeing improvements to the area.

"It seems like the people who are working with the grants and grant money they are the ones who are getting them money to refurbish their business," owner of Associated Photography Steve Jesse said.

Jessee has been operating his business on Mercer Street for decades. He admits the area needs some help but is excited to see some of the new changes.

New murals have been painted on buildings along the street and some local folks are working to get grant money to purchase a theatre on Mercer Street.

Though there are forces working together to build-up Mercer Street, the have been many set backs. 59News learned one bike shop on the street named The True Wheel is going out of business.  The owner would not speak with us on camera but said the he just couldn't get customers in the door.