Cuts In Suburban Pittsburgh Bus Routes Changed Lives

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Allegheny County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Allegheny County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A couple years ago, when Gloria Jefferson of McKeesport wanted to go somewhere, she walked to a bus stop near her house.

Then, in 2011, her commute became much less convenient. During a round of cuts to fix a budget deficit, the Port Authority canceled her route, which ran through the middle of McKeesport. Now, Ms. Jefferson, who is 80, has to walk a mile downhill to another stop.

The walk is tough for her, especially when she’s carrying grocery bags. Sometimes, she pays for a ride there or avoids going places. She wonders whether she’ll still be able to make the walk when she gets older.

“Right now, I feel good. How long it’s going to last, I don’t know,” she said. “I keep on praying that one day they’ll turn it around and bring the bus back up the hill.”

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/news/transportation/2014/04/06/Cuts-in-suburban-bus-routes-changed-lives/stories/201404060065#ixzz2y9vjCoPz

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Changing Skyline: Cool Affordable Housing For Young Teachers

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia ...

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s easy to imagine the sprawling 19th-century brick mill on South Kensington’s Howard Street as just another high-end apartment complex for twentysomething professionals, the newest outpost on Philadelphia’s ever-advancing frontier of gentrification.

Situated a few blocks north of Fishtown‘s hipster bars and BYOB food shrines, Oxford Mills preserves the kind of authentic architectural details that make young, and not-so-young, renters swoon: high ceilings, huge windows, thick wooden beams.  The amenities hail straight from the wired generation’s handbook.  Plans call for an office incubator that rents desk space by the day and a public cafe that spills onto a sliver park furnished with outdoor tables and a fire pit.  You know, for those cool, late summer nights when you want to linger with friends.

But Oxford Mills, which will hold a ceremonial groundbreaking Wednesday, ventures down an uncharted path.  It is being built by a private company, D3 Real Estate, which intends to market the units as affordable housing to teachers, especially novices working in programs like Teach for America, and others who fall into the growing category known as “the working poor.”

Newly minted professionals with college degrees are not generally seen as the target demographic for low-income housing, a term that still brings to mind no-frills residential complexes built for the chronically poor, elderly, or disabled.

Read more:  http://www.philly.com/philly/home/20130415_Changing_Skyline__South_Kensington_housing_development_for_low-wage_workers_is_a_socially_driven_project.html

Suburban Areas Becoming More Convenient, City-Like

English: Text that accompanies the ULI logo.

English: Text that accompanies the ULI logo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For the past two decades, suburban areas have been making a slow transition from car-dependent to people-oriented design, with more options for walking, cycling or public transportation, according to Urban Land Institute, a nonprofit research and education organization.

ULI recently published a report, “Shifting Suburbs: Reinventing Infrastructure for Compact Development,” detailing how this change is mostly driven by generation Y, who favor the convenience of urban-style living in more densely populated areas.

The U.S. population is expected to increase by 95 million in the next 30 years, and most of the growth will occur in suburban towns, which makes smart suburban land use essential to growth. But redeveloping these areas is harder in practice than in theory, according to the report.

Read more:   http://www.philly.com/philly/classifieds/real_estate/Suburban_areas_becoming_more_convenient_urban-like.html

New PAID Director Relishes Challenge Of Urban Economic Development

Editor’s note:  90 days into a new job and he scores!  Color me impressed!

POTTSTOWN, Pa. - When your job is to try to attract businesses to a particular place, having a sense of place is pretty important.

So it´s probably a good thing that Steve Bamford has a boatload of real estate experience to call upon in his role as executive director of the Pottstown Area Industrial Development, also known as PAID Inc.

More than two years ago, the Urban Land Institute recommended, among other things, that economic development be taken out of the hands of the politicians and put into the hands of a professional staff. The result was a re-imagining of the largely moribund PAID organization into an active economic development arm with a responsibility sharing agreement between the borough, the school district and the Montgomery Redevelopment Authority.

Read more: http://business-news.thestreet.com/the-mercury/story/new-paid-director-relishes-challenge-urban-economic-development/1

POTTSTOWN AREA INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT, INC. ANNOUNCES EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR HIRE

POTTSTOWN, PA, NOVEMBER 2, 2011: Pottstown Area Industrial Development, Inc. (PAID) has announced the appointment of Steven Bamford as its new Executive Director. Bamford’s first day will be November 10, 2011.

A resident of Lansdale, Bamford has over 20 years of economic development experience in local government as well as the private sector – since February 2010, he has been Co-Owner/Vice President of TCB Marketing, a results-oriented marketing, media and management consulting firm.

Additionally, Bamford served as a Manager, then Senior Manager, at Ernst and Young from 2002 to 2010. At Ernst and Young, Bamford was responsible for assisting Fortune 1000 and middle market clients making investment and location decisions in the US and abroad by identifying, negotiating and securing incentives from federal, state and local governments.

Prior to his private sector experience, Bamford worked in various positions in the public sector. From 1997 to 2002, Bamford held dual roles as the Vice President of Operations with the Allentown Economic Development Corporation and served as the Executive Director of the Allentown Commercial and Industrial Development Authority. In this capacity, Bamford managed the day-to-day operations of these organizations and their real estate redevelopment projects serving as “developer of last resort” for the most challenging, underutilized and functionally obsolete properties. Bamford also assisted businesses and developers in determining feasibility, site selection, and obtaining funding for projects. Some of these projects included the Bridgeworks, Portland Place, Plaza at PPL Center and Lehigh Landing.

From 1993 to 1996, Bamford served as the Vice President for Special Projects with the New Castle County (DE) Economic Development Corporation where he assisted with site selection and provided support for companies seeking incentives, zoning or development plan approval for projects. Also, Bamford served as the Economic Development Specialist for the City of Reading from 1991-1993 where he performed financial analysis, evaluated development and operating budgets and made funding recommendations to City Council on requests from businesses and developers for assistance through the City’s revolving loan fund.

“Steve’s experience, energy and mix of public sector and private sector experience will be a positive impact to the Borough of Pottstown” said Jason Bobst, President of the Board of Directors.

“We were especially impressed with Steve’s research into the Economic Development Strategic Plan and the most recent Urban Land Institute Advisory Panel Service Plan of 2009. He presented a possible entry plan into this new position from the priorities listed in these documents” added Reed Lindley, Superintendent of the Pottstown School District.

Bamford becomes the first Executive Director of PAID, Inc. since its re-birth as part of the Urban Land Institute Advisory Panel Service Plan recommendation for a single-source entity for economic development in the Borough of Pottstown.

Bamford received his Bachelor of Arts in Economics & Business Administration from Ursinus College and his Master of Business Administration from the University of Delaware.

PAID, Inc. selected Bamford from a field of 37 applicants.

Editor’s comments:  We thank Jason Bobst and the rest of the PAID Board for their hard work in selecting a qualified candidate to help move Pottstown forward.  We are impressed with Mr. Bamford’s credentials.  Mr. Bamford appears to have the skill sets and leadership qualities that will be needed for the Herculean task of leading Pottstown to greener economic pastures.

We welcome Mr. Bamford to Pottstown and wish him much success.  We hope a new era of cooperation and collaboration will unfold in Pottstown that will enable Mr. Bamford to be all he can be in this position.  He CANNOT do it alone!  This means Mr. Bamford needs our full cooperation and support.

Pottstown Borough Council Supports The Arts

Location of Pottstown in Montgomery County

Image via Wikipedia

One of the agenda items at tonight’s Pottstown Borough Council meeting was:

8.  Motion to approve the submission of an application to the Montgomery County Community Revitalization Board and prioritize from the following projects:

  1. Western Gate
  2. Gallery on High
  3. Pottstown Skyline Lighting Project

Councilor Joe Kirkland made a motion to change the order making the Gallery on High the first priority, the Skyline Project would be second and the Western Gateway would be third. 

After making his motion, Councilor Kirkland spoke in favor of the Gallery on High in downtown Pottstown.  People attending shows, exhibits and classes can then take advantage of their proximity to places like the Brick House, Juan Carlos, Funky Lil’ Kitchen and other downtown bars, restaurants and shops.  In light of the recent budget cuts in Harrisburg, the Gallery School has offered to partner with Pottstown School District in the event arts funding is severely cut or eliminated so students will still have this important educational component.

Councilor Chomnuk disagreed and stated he preferred the Western Gateway be made the number one priority as it would be more beneficial to Pottstown.  Since the Gallery Building was already renovated, Chomnuk did not think the Gallery on High’s project would be approved by the county.

Councilor Allen agreed with Councilor Chomnuk.  She did express her feelings that the Gallery on High does good things but she feels the Western Gateway would be more beneficial.

Councilor Rhoads spoke in favor of the Gallery on High because they are an existing business and contribute to downtown Pottstown.  (If the Gallery could buy their building and make the necessary renovations to the third floor, basement and reconfigure their current layout, the Gallery could contribute even more to downtown Pottstown.)

Councilor Weand spoke in favor of the Gallery on High for many of the same reasons listed above.  He sees the benefit of having a thriving business on High Street that brings people into downtown Pottstown “our mall”.

President Toroney spoke in favor of the Gallery on High. The arts are listed in the Urban Land Institute Report as a way to revitalize downtown Pottstown and we should follow the suggestions of this study.  He also recognizes the contribution the Gallery and TriPAC make to our downtown.  President Toroney and his wife attended “The Crucible” production at the TriPAC and he stated he only recognized about three people.  People are coming into Pottstown from outside the borough to attend these productions.

Councilor Gibson did not speak as he was not present at tonight’s meeting

After much discussion, a roll call vote was taken:

Allen – NO

Chomnuk – NO

Kirkland – Yes

Rhoads – Yes

Weand – Yes

Toroney – Yes

Gibson – absent

Mr. Kirkland’s motion passed making the Gallery on High proposal the borough’s number one priority when applying for these county funds.

Cathy Paretti, Co-Founder and Director of the Gallery addressed Council during the comments from citizen’s present, before the vote.  Mrs. Paretti asked Council to please make this project a priority.  She explained that if the Gallery could buy their building they could make the necessary renovations to expand their presence downtown and services to residents.  Cathy also mentioned that the Gallery has a great relationship with the Pottstown School District and if arts education gets cut from the budget, due to decreased funding from Harrisburg, the Gallery would be there to pick up the slack.  Also present in a show of support was Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Gallery School, Erika Hornburg-Cooper.

Roy’s Rants gives Pottstown Council two thumbs up for supporting an existing downtown business, supporting the arts and paying attention to the ULI Report’s recommendations to move Pottstown forward. 

We hope the county sees the wisdom of this decision.  Jason Bobst, Borough Manager and Erica Weekly, Assistant to the Borough Manager will be presenting this proposal to the county so I feel we are in good hands as they are excellent public speakers who can effectively articulate our needs.

The Pottstown Arts & Cultural Alliance

I recently learned of this organization and feel it is important to spread the word that this organization exists and what exactly they are doing to help Pottstown! 

So what exactly is the Pottstown Arts & Cultural Alliance? 

According to their website it is:

The Pottstown Arts & Cultural Alliance is a result of the collective vision of its founding members: The Gallery School of Pottstown @ Gallery on High, Pottstown Symphony Orchestra, and Village Productions/Tri-County Performing Arts Center.

Our Mission

The mission of the Pottstown Arts & Cultural Alliance is to bring together the arts and cultural organizations of Pottstown for the purpose of articulating and promoting a unified vision.

Our Vision

A cultural district in downtown Pottstown that will increase cultural tourism and awareness of the social and educational importance of the arts.

The arts, cultural activities and tourism are a means of revitalization and economic development for places like Pottstown.  Having a riverfront is a key part.  The Schuylkill River is Pottstown’s southern boundary and flows a few short blocks from High Street. 

An added benefit would be the Montgomery County Community College West Campus and the Hill School.  These two educational resources bring many people into Pottstown who would have an interest in arts, culture, tourism and entertainment (restaurants and nightlife).  The West Campus is strategically located across College Drive from the river.  Their annex building is on High Street, so the college ties the riverfront to downtown Pottstown.  The Hill School already has an excellent arts and culture program along with their own performing arts center and is located at 717 High Street.

The Urban Land Institute report advised Pottstown’s leadership that in order to revitalize this community, a strategy of arts, culture and entertainment should be embraced.  To that end, the Pottstown Arts & Cultural Alliance was formed in 2009 to act as an umbrella organization for transforming Pottstown into an arts and entertainment destination.

For more information you can check out their website at:  http://www.pottstownarts.org/alliance

Company Relocating National Headquarters To Chester Riverfront

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Delaware County

Image via Wikipedia

This is great news for Chester!  Power Home Remodeling Group, the nations fourth-largest home-remodeling company, is relocating their corporate headquarters to Chester’s riverfront.  (Sounds like a ULI recommendation to me) 

The Wharf at Rivertown is a mixed-use office and retail project along the Chester riverfront.  Governor Rendell, when he’s not busy yelling at Leslie Stahl, said “This project will continue the impressive development of the city’s waterfront area and build upon its growing reputation as a great location for businesses looking to relocate or expand.”

The Governor’s Action Team (GAT) coordinated the project.  GAT is made up of economic development professionals who work with businesses that are interested in expanding in or relocating to Pennsylvania.

A $300,000 grant was obtained with the help of the Delaware County Commerce Center.  The entire Power Home Remodeling Group project will cost $1 million dollars.  It will create 270 new jobs within three years and keep the 278 jobs already in Chester.

Sounds like Chester, PA is open for business!

York City Making Improvements To Market Downtown

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting York County

Image via Wikipedia

One year ago, Roger Brooks visited York City and came up with 33 recommendations how downtown York could market itself and attract people.  This idea should sound familiar to Pottstown residents after a ULI study and recommendations were made for Pottstown.

What did York do with these 33 recommendations?  Do you suppose they ignored them or possibly took an expert at their word and went about trying to carry out these ideas?  I know, sounds pretty zany, doesn’t it!

Mr. Brooks gave York a 3 – 5 year time frame to make the changes.  Like Pottstown, York has a downtown entity similar to PDIDA, called Downtown Inc.  Their Executive Director, Sonia Huntzinger reports they have completed 18 out of 33 recommendations in the first year!

Some of these recommendations, Pottstown has already completed (mainly the cosmetic ones).  One unique recommendation, completed in October, was a “best of” guide.  Downtown Inc. released a Downtown Destination guide which promotes downtown York!

Brooks recommended that York brand itself as “America’s Industrial Art and Design Capital”.  The York County Economic Development Corp. has developed “Creativity Unleashed” to support this effort.  The idea is to attract young professionals and artists to York along with tourism.  A logo was developed to be used by organizations and companies in their advertising to help promote this rebranding.

How refreshing to see that the county and the city work together to achieve these goals.  How refreshing to see the vigor with which York is embracing these recommendations for positive change.

If you would like to check out Downtown Inc.’s website site, click here: http://downtownyorkpa.com/

To view their 25 page Downtown Destination brochure, click here:

http://downtownyorkpa.com/storage/Destination%20Guide%20ALL%20Pages.pdf

To view Creativity Unleashed info, click here:

http://downtownyorkpa.com/creativity-unleashed/

If this doesn’t inspire you, check your pulse!

SavePottstown! Asks The $64,000 Question

I just read the latest SavePottstown! post.  The question du jour is:

One Year Later… And Exactly What Has Been Accomplished?

I would have to say not much!  Click on the link below to read the latest thoughts from SavePottstown! on the Urban Land Institute Visioning Summit that was held one year ago.  Recommendations were made.  We are all still waiting for something substantive (results) to come out of this meeting. 

http://savepottstown.com/