OLEAN, NY -- To Mike Conroy the new look of downtown Olean is a “step in the right direction.”
The Olean resident and owner of the State Farm insurance agency on West State Street said he was excited as he made his way along North Union Street during Friday’s stroOlean event.
"It's brought more attention and activity to the downtown area," Conroy said, referring to the reconstruction and transformation project begun in 2013 that made North Union more accessible and walkable. The project was funded by a $6.5 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery Program grant given to the city in 2013.
Residents were encouraged to make their way downtown throughout the day and evening. Local businesses set up tents and hosted events to reach out to those who were strolling down North Union Street.
The Olean Public Library hosted raffles and games. Restaurants offered food specials from outdoor vending sites for those passing by.
Conroy said he was not exactly sure of the actual help the reconstruction has done for businesses, noting that time will do the telling for that. He was quick to add that as a resident he would like to see "more activities on a monthly basis like the old Olean Carnival, and family-packed events like Ellicotville does."
Colden Dwaileebe, a 20-year-old resident of Olean, said, "There has been a lot of talk about it, but I think they need to do more that caters to a younger crowd of people. If they want an influx of business and more people coming down, that's what they have to do, in my opinion."
Along with the North Union Street walkable set up, the strOlean team is hosting other events throughout the night including Yoga on the Lawn by Gentle Flow Yoga; a volleyball tourney at the Olean campus of Jamestown Community College; a Wiffle ball tournament benefitting testicular cancer research, and a showing of the Disney movie “Moana” on the lawn of the JCC campus. StreetMasters cruised in and set up a car show, and a “Miles for Mercy Flight” walk/run began at 5 p.m.
Christina Baker, a long time resident of Olean, said she is a big fan of the whole project.
“I have been saying for years that we needed to do something different downtown,” Baker said. “I love what they've done here, and I think a lot of other Olean residents feel the same way."