Malls and big box stores upset the traditional relationship between residents of boroughs and their Main Street businesses.
But thanks to revitalization plans that have unfolded over the last decade, Main Streets are being beautified and making a gradual comeback.
“I believe we can recreate much of the community feel that was alive in the era before the mall, but the new and improved downtown will reflect businesses and activity relevant to the current decade,” said Lansdale Borough Council member Mary Fuller.
“Communities don´t go downhill overnight. They aren´t going to come back overnight,” said Pam Coleman, manager of the Souderton-Telford Main Streets organization. “The reality is the boroughs (of Souderton and Telford) have been working on it 11 years. We´re fortunate that we have a committed council.”
With all eyes trained on the planned renewal of downtown Allentown, the city’s theater district is taking back a little of the spotlight.
The city announced plans in July for a $3 million face-lift in the West End that will bring brick-lined sidewalks, ornamental streetlights and repainted traffic signals to the art district.
Work on the new streetscape is scheduled to begin at the end of April, Mayor Ed Pawlowski said at a news conference Wednesday at the Civic Theatre. The city will put out bids for a construction company in the coming weeks, he said.
“We have the opportunity to really transform the western gateway into the city,” Pawlowski said, adding it’s the first significant investment to the neighborhood in decades.
Before any artists could move in, the decades-old paneling and drop ceilings definitely had to go.
“We kind of undid the ’70s,” Blanda Nace said as he climbed a newly renovated staircase toward a giant rectangular room on the top floor. When the building belonged to the Fraternal Order of Eagles, this was the “ritual room,” Nace said, smiling.
Someday soon, the York County Industrial Development Authority (YCIDA) project manager is hoping the ritual room will be the site of education seminars, wedding receptions and community banquets — the cherry on top of a $2.5 million makeover for the downtown building.
In an “everything old is new again” report, the city’s downtown consultants are recommending it move ahead to the past.
They want the city to recreate the old market houses that stood on Penn Square for more than a century to give the square more activity.
They urge narrowing the square’s wide sidewalks to push vehicle traffic closer to the buildings and to make room for a wide pedestrian plaza along the Penn Street centerline to make the square more alive.
They suggest re-installing the here-again-gone-again traffic circle at Fifth and Penn streets, to slow traffic and make the square more pedestrian friendly.
On the corner of Mulberry and Crescent Streets in Allison Hill is a vacant lot where two blighted homes were demolished by the city. Community group Danzante, an Allison Hill based community art music and dance center is adopting this vacant lot from the city for $1.00 through Harrisburg’s Adopt-A-Block program.
Volunteers from well beyond the Harrisburg area are coming to Allison Hill and helping reclaim this vacant land to beautify it and give hope to Allison Hill residents. Mosaic art will decorate the path leading to the “Treasure Garden”.
Danzante has been a part of Allison Hill since 1978. The 501(c)3 organization is looking for volunteers to help with the project or people to make donations toward the completion of this project. The Danzante Community Center is on the opposite corner from the Art Garden. The group hopes to create a beautiful and safe community gathering place.
Two crucial projects were approved that will help continue the transformation of Midtown Harrisburg into an arts/cultural/entertainment district. The Susquehanna Art Museum was approved for a $5 million grant to transform a vacant bank building into a state of the art museum for Pennsylvania’s capital city. The arts bring revitalization and economic development!
The second project, approved a day later, is one of my most favorite kinds of adaptive reuse scenarios. Take an old and empty commercial building, add commercial space on the first floor and transform the top floors into apartments or townhouses. The Furlow Building will have the top five floors repurposed into 20-24 one-bedroom apartments for professionals. This building is in a KOZ and renters will be eligible for tax abatement. The bottom floor will be used for commercial tenants. The project developer received a $2.5 million matching grant from the state to make this happen.
These two projects represent an investment (by the state) of $7.5 million into Midtown Harrisburg. A new Federal Courthouse is slated to be built in Midtown and will represent a significant monetary investment. It will also serve as a vehicle to draw more professional people (with discretionary income) into Midtown.
Midtown is Harrisburg’s arts destination, the site of the 3rd in the Burg monthly event along with galleries and restaurants. Harrisburg Area Community College also has a Midtown campus.
This is exactly how revitalization should work. A community institution, in this case York College, is supporting the City of York’s efforts to revitalize their business district.
The old Fraternal Order of Eagles building in center city York is being rehabilitated. York College just signed a lease to be the anchor tenant of this new adaptive reuse project. The building is being transformed into an arts center!
The York County Industrial Development Authority purchased the building for $290,000 and is investing $2.5 MILLION into the project, which is a mix of private funds, the York County Development Authority’s funds and a grant from the Commonwealth Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program.
One floor of the building will be transformed into gallery and studio space for senior painting students at York College. We think this is awesome and give all involved parties two Roy’s Rants thumbs up on a job well done AND hold this up as an example of cooperation between multiple entities for the common good of York City!