What the Raymond John Wean Foundation did in downtown Warren with $2 million and in one year should serve as inspiration to reinvigorate the rest of Courthouse Square.
In April of 2011, Wean purchased the 1860s-era Market Block Building and hired The Chesler Group to perform a ''sensitive historic restoration.'' Last week, Wean held its grand opening to show off a blended 21st century, three-story office complex with preserved architecture and building materials.
The public can schedule private tours and organizations can reserve a community room. We encourage both.
Next door is a beautifully restored home for National Fire & Water Repair. Company President Paul Clouser had the historic elements of the building, which was built in 1861, restored and revealed, including original brick walls and cedar flooring. The business is on the main level, two large apartments are on the second floor and Clouser's residence is above that.
Hopefully this inspires others, such as the operators of All-American Cards & Comics, to put some cash and elbow grease into less attractive Courthouse Square structures. It should help to know that recent surveys indicate interest in residing downtown, especially among 20- and 30-somethings, surpasses available apartment space.
The Wean and Clouser accomplishments also highlight the difference between private and public development. Joining them on this block of West Market is the Tech Belt Energy Innovation Center, which relies on government funding. Unveiled as the Warren Technology and Business Center for Energy Sustainability in 2009, TBEIC announced its location in the historic Kresge building in October 2010. Years have elapsed, staff has been paid, yet little progress has been made to Kresge.
With National Fire and now Wean, there are blueprints to follow. The Market Block Building housed Woolworth's for 40 years, Dollar General briefly and sat empty since 2008. The Italianate Tuscan style architecture, stone masonry walls and original sliding oak pocket doors are among the preserved elements.
Schools should send students on field trips to Wean, where they could gain an appreciation for history, learn about the ingenuity and philanthropy of Raymond John Wean and even have class in the community room. It's important for local students to know that they are growing up in a community that produces great minds and hearts.