Johnstown Fights Blight

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Cambria County

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The City of Johnstown, Cambria County, is a post-industrial community just like Pottstown.  Steel was king along with heavy manufacturing.  Those days are gone and communities have fallen on hard times. 

When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.  Johnstown is doing just that.  In an effort to clean up their community and attract middle-income residents, Johnstown has started a program to buy blighted properties, demo them and redevelop the property with a prefabricated home.  These are 3 bedroom, 2.5 bathroom homes that are Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certified.  Meaning these homes are energy-efficient.

This program is a joint effort between the Cambria County Redevelopment Authority and the City of Johnstown.  Funding was obtained through the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (federal).

They intend to transform the entire South Street neighborhood PLUS they are targeting business development and a business development strategy to bring in new business!

This initial project is only a small dent in Johnstown’s blighted housing stock; however, it’s one house at a time, one block at a time.  And that is just what Johnstown officials intend to do.

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PennDOT Coughs Up Money For New Train Station In Coatesville

SEPTA logo with text

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This is a very interesting move for several reasons.

 

The train “station” at Coatesville is presently crap and ridership is low in part because the station is a shack with no amenities like a ticket booth or bathrooms for starters.  Having been there once it totally creeped me out.

 

Once the new station is built SEPTA has no plans to increase service.  They will “wait and see” if the “build it and they will come” mentality works.  If ridership increases, SEPTA will increase service.  SEPTA feels it makes no sense to expand ridership at a little-used station but it DOES make sense to spent $16.3 million dollars to build a new station, platforms, pedestrian overpass etc…  Hmmmmmm…

 

PennDOT wants to get in on the project with transit-oriented development that will hopefully stabilize the neighborhood and bring economic development to Coatesville.  PennDOT is committing $15 million dollars to the project and the station is not even designed yet.  (BUT THERE IS NO MONEY TO REBUILD THE KEIM STREET BRIDGE WHICH CARRIED 9400 VEHICLES PER DAY OVER THE SCHUYLKILL RIVER.)

 

Another goal is to make SEPTA riders feel safe while waiting for a train.  Okay, you get a point for that since presently it is scary.

 

The coolest part is that PennDOT is conferring with elected leadership in Coatesville, Chester County and taking the pulse of the neighborhood.  What a concept!  Getting ideas from residents.  (Pottstown might want to consider this approach instead of “Father Knows Best”.)

 

It is commendable that PennDOT wants to be involved in economic development.  Coatesville has demonstrated needs.  But, so does Pottstown which is MUCH larger and has a critical bridge which is indefinitely closed with no money allocated to repair or replace it.  I would think the Keim Street Bridge should be a priority over giving $15 million dollars to build a new train station, not even in the development stage, at a little-used SEPTA stop.  $15 million dollars should pay for a new bridge!

Reading GoggleWorks – Transforming The City Of Reading

Reading's Pagoda seen from Skyline Drive

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This sounds like the recipe for Velveeta cheese except we aren’t using Colby, Swiss and Cheddar.  Take a bunch of abandoned industrial buildings, fix ’em up, blend in a heapin’ helpin’ of the arts and see what you get!  Revitalization in Reading, PA!

Read the story below:

http://www.newpa.com/strengthen-your-community/success-stories/the-revivalists/index.aspx

Columbia Pennsylvania, Rollin' On The Susquehanna With Riverfront Development

Postcard picture of "bird's eye view"...

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The borough of Columbia sits on the Susquehanna River on the border of Lancaster and York Counties.  Columbia, albeit smaller, is similar to Pottstown in many ways.  Read how Columbia has redeveloped their riverfront and received a Governor’s Award for Excellence!  (Editor’s note:  I don’t see any low-income riverfront housing mentioned in this article as a path to redevelopment.  Just sayin….)

http://www.newpa.com/strengthen-your-community/success-stories/columbia-pa/index.aspx

York's Olde Towne East Neighborhood Transformed

Olde Towne East was a down and out neighborhood in York.  Blight, crime, vacant buildings and low property values.  Read this article about how Olde Towne East rose like a phoenix from the ashes and now their neighborhood is a source of pride in York!

http://www.newpa.com/strengthen-your-community/success-stories/million-dollar-makeover/index.aspx

West Reading, An Economic Success Story

Read this inspirational article about how West Reading transformed their stagnant downtown into a destination shopping area with 144 stores, restaurants and art galleries.

http://www.newpa.com/strengthen-your-community/success-stories/the-making-of-main-street/index.aspx

Blight Eradication In Wilkes-Barre Neighborhood

After some legal wrangling, three blighted properties on Monroe Street in Wilkes-Barre were demolished.  The blighted properties became dumping grounds and the neighbors were bothered by noxious odors for several years.  There have also been multiple fires (arson) at the site over the last two-years which have been a great concern for neighbors. 

Blighted, and in this case vacant, properties are magnets for vandalism, squatters, dumping and rodents.  These properties were jeopardizing the stability of an otherwise nice neighborhood.  Repeated fires also created serious safety hazards for neighboring residents.  Another issue here, there is an $18,000 tax lien on the property, which is still owned by Christopher Street Realty.  The city is being reimbursed for the demolition of the derelict properties.

Kudos to Wilkes-Barre for taking the necessary steps to demolish these blighted properties and making this neighborhood safe and healthy once again!