A Roy’s Rants Exclusive Interview
I had the opportunity to interview our newly elected Planning Commission Member this evening. I was anxious to interview Andrew in light of some recent comments on local blogs. I think it is important to get to know someone before jumping to conclusions based on supposition or fear of the unknown.
Andrew was raised in Caln Township, near Coatesville. He was brought up to appreciate cities and urban areas by his parents, who were from Philadelphia. As a child, he was often taken to Philadelphia where he was exposed to the many things Pennsylvania’s largest city has to offer.
Andrew majored in Philosophy at Fordham University in NYC from 1992 to 1996. Andrew made a conscious decision to attend college in a big city so he could have that experience. Living in NYC allowed Andrew to visit neighborhoods, in places like Brooklyn, that were revitalized during his college years. Andrew agrees with gentrification but he draws the line at the displacement of the original residents. There should be a balance struck between the new and the old.
In 2003, Andrew and his wife decided to buy a home on Chestnut Street and renovate it. They were attracted to Pottstown initially because of the reasonable rents and stayed because of the affordability of owning a home. They were encouraged by the talk of downtown revitalization and the centralized elementary center project that was proposed for the core neighborhood.
The Kefer’s moved into their Chestnut Street home in April of 2004. They did most of the renovation themselves. After settling in they began to notice the level of crime in their neighborhood. They have two children, ages 5 & 6, and the crime in their neighborhood is a concern.
The core neighborhood has a higher than usual percentage of rental properties (even for Pottstown). People like the Kefer’s are needed to buy and renovate the existing housing stock in the core neighborhood to stabilize it.
Andrew enjoys reading Sue Repko’s blog, Positively!Pottstown, and has since gotten to know her. He is working with her on the Community Land Trust. He attended the Code Blue sponsored meeting with Attorney Adam Sager at the Pottstown Diner and the summit at Invictus Ministries. By attending these events, Andrew got to know more people in Pottstown who are making a difference.
I asked Andrew what, if any, affiliation he has with Thomas Hylton. Some comments were posted on SavePottstown that questioned whether he is Hyltonite. The Kefer’s are neighbors of the Hyltons but Andrew only met Mr. Hylton one time. He recognizes the contributions Mr. Hylton made to Pottstown; however Andrew’s approach is far different than the man he is replacing on the Planning Commission. Andrew’s approach is: engage in a dialogue, build a consensus and a resolution will emerge.
Andrew likes the rich architecture of Pottstown, the walkable community aspect and the adaptive reuse of buildings. Pottstown is built-out and should take advantage of existing buildings and transform them, rather than demolish them.
Andrew would like to make the Planning Commission friendlier and cut some red tape. We need economic development to help lower taxes, lower crime and revitalize Pottstown. For example, there are industrial parcels all over Pottstown that would be lend themselves to things such as the manufacturing of wind turbines, solar panels and other green technologies.
Key ingredients to our revitalization will be the arts, green business and things like heritage tourism. Andrew feels a sense of urgency that Pottstown needs to develop a vision, based on the ULI recommendations and see it come to fruition. Pottstown can go either way. The longer we delay moving forward the more difficult that task will become.
We wish Andrew well in his endeavors to help move Pottstown forward. It would seem a new day is dawning in Pottstown and we finally have a critical mass of “doers” who can make the revitalization I have waited for, since 1983, actually happen.