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Hyannis Main Street community celebrates Cynthia Cole

Surprise party honors departing BID director

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Cynthia Cole, who is stepping down as executive director of the Hyannis Main Street Business Improvement District, with her son, Samuel.

'You don't say no to Cynthia Cole'

By James Kinsella

In the late 1990s, longtime citizen activist Cynthia Cole of Barnstable could be seen visiting the business news desk of the Cape Cod Times on Main Street in Hyannis.

In the past eight years, Cynthia Cole, with her passion and energy, has shown the difference that one person can make in the life of a street and a town.

Cole would come to the newspaper to update the editor and the reporter at the desk about a plan she was advocating to revive Main Street and its neighborhood: something called a business improvement district, where property owners inside the district would pay an additional assessment to generate funds for projects and services to benefit the entire neighborhood.

Main Street still was a shadow of its former self, when residents from throughout the Cape would fill its sidewalks. There was a question whether the property owners would buy into yet another attempt to bring back the tired area.

Cole persevered, and they did. The Hyannis Main Street Business Improvement District came into existence in 1999. In 2001, Cole became the district's second executive director.

Eight years of passionate leadership

In the past eight years, Cole, with her passion and energy, has shown the difference that one person can make in the life of a street and a town.

On Thursday night, in the culmination of a conspiracy that surprised its participants with its success, more than a hundred people gathered at Embargo on Main Street to surprise Cole, who is stepping down, with a party to honor what she has done.

Master of ceremonies Rob Sennott, publisher of the Barnstable Patriot, called Cole "the girl of the year, the heart of Main Street, the lady of the moment."

The crowd raised its glasses and toasted her: "Bravo, Cynthia, bravo!"

"Wow! My first citation."
On Thursday night, in the culmination of a conspiracy that surprised its participants with its success, more than a hundred people gathered at Embargo on Main Street to surprise Cole, who is stepping down, with a party to honor what she has done.

Honors flowed. Rick Penn of Puritan Clothing, who long was the district's president, testified to her drive in creating and then sustaining the district.

"You don't say no to Cynthia Cole," Penn said.

The district has created a new annual award, the Cole Award, to be given to the person who best exemplifies the spirit of Main Street.

Susan Rohrbach, aide to state Sen. Robert O'Leary, brought her a citation from the state Senate signed by O'Leary and state Senate President Therese Murray.

"Wow!" Cole said. "My first citation."

Not to be outdone, state Rep. Demetrius Atsalis brought a citation from the House that he said was a collector's item: the last document bearing the signature (albeit stamped) of just-departed Speaker Salvatore DiMasi.

Atsalis, identifying himself as a "Hyannis boy, said he knew Cole wasn't leaving the town or the Cape, "but we'll miss you here."

Assistant town manager Tom Lynch recounted queries from people asking about the homeless woman who always was out on Main Street, gardening and tidying up the street. It was, of course, Cole.

Deborah Converse, president and chief executive officer of the Hyannis Area Chamber of Commerce, presented Cole with a memorial brick that will be placed in front of the John F. Kennedy Museum in Hyannis, where both organizations are headquartered. The brick reads: "Cynthia Cole, 2001-2009, Downtown Dynamo."

Streetlights and a valentine

Longtime friend Meg Loughran composed a Top 10 list of how things will be different now that Cole is leaving the BID. They included not having to lie to her anymore about buying something or dining out somewhere other than Main Street.

Dave Colombo, owner of the Roadhouse Café and current president of the district, told about visiting Cole at her office last Feb. 14, when the new streetlights for Main Street finally arrived after an arduous three-year effort.

Cole was excited to show him something: it wasn't about the new streetlights, but rather a valentine from her son, Samuel.

She will be honored with one of the plaques that will be placed on the streetlights, honoring her for "Tenacious Service to Main Street."

When Cole finally was given the microphone, she spoke proudly about the street's low vacancy rate of 3 percent and the 11 new businesses that opened there at the end of 2008.

She paid tribute to Penn and Colombo, to her husband, Isaac Rosen, and to "her peeps": BID staffers Amanda Converse, Elizabeth Wurfbain and Zachariah Hirshfield, and BID treasurer Stanley Hodkinson.

"They are the best, the very best," Cole said.

"I'm going to go now," she concluded. "I love you all."

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Hyannis Main Streeters turned out en masse for surprise party at Embargo for Cynthia Cole.

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