Cleanup starts with one
Businessman Paul Boulus wants to see Walton Way thrive.
Painting the street's storefronts, manicuring streetscapes and picking up trash are the steps toward beautification he wants Walton Way business owners to make.
"It's not a downtown area, but there are very beautiful homes and estates throughout Walton Way," said Mr. Boulus, who owns Iran Rug Company on Walton Way. "Walton Way has at least 3,000 cars drive through it everyday. We need to let people know there are businesses here."
Mr. Boulus has owned his family's rug company for more than 30 years. In 2000, he moved the company to Walton Way. He's now on a mission to transform Walton Way into a revitalized business district in hopes of bringing more people there and increasing commerce on the thoroughfare.
In June, Mr. Boulus decided to take on part of the beautification on his own. He invested $30,000 in cleaning up a building in the 1900 block of Walton Way that had been tagged with graffiti. Last week, he and a crew of hired help finished cleaning off gang signs, repairing broken windows and clearing away overgrown plant life, he said.
He said he plans to open the building as Paul Boulus Antiques, Decorative Furniture and Consignments. His next step toward beautifying the street will be talking to business owners.
"I'm going to write every business owner from Milledge Road on down so that we can meet and see what needs to change," he said.
Mr. Boulus said he also plans to talk with Mayor Deke Copenhaver about making Walton Way a business district.
To become a business district, 51 percent of the property owners would have to approve a tax increase for the cleanup and additional services, said Mr. Copenhaver, who was the steering committee chairman for the Downtown Development project. So far, the project has resulted in the cleanup of more than 40 tons of trash and changed the perception of downtown, Mr. Copenhaver said.
"What we did downtown took many years," he said. "My hope had always been that people would see the changes to downtown and that other areas would work toward the same improvements."
Mr. Copenhaver said he would like to see Walton Way and Central Avenue become business districts, attracting greater attention to the restaurants, clothing shops and other businesses there.
"It's encouraging to see this start at the grass roots with business owners," Mr. Copenhaver said. "It started downtown with citizens making the efforts."
Mr. Boulus is sure that once he speaks with Walton Way's business owners, they will get on board with the beautification project.
"They just need to understand the value of beautification for the people who drive through here," he said. "If they take the time out to clean up their storefronts, it's amazing what that will do for our business."