Many of the things present in revitalized area across the
country are present right here in Pottstown. We just
need them running on all cylinders.
There have been some successes however. Things like the Steel River Playhouse, the 100 block of High Street, VideoRay in the old Levitz building are all accomplishments to be proud of and to be built upon.
A recent web article in Forbes magazine also got me thinking.
Some places have used
restaurants and art centers.
Like we have.
It is a list of 10 revitalized neighborhoods in major U.S. cities and a somewhat abbreviated explanation of how they got that way.
They didn't just do it on their own. Forbes had input from the American Planning Association and their choices are as interesting as the ways in which the revitalization occurred.
As I've been telling people lately, I've begun to be less interested in political doctrine and more interested in what works.
Others have expanded college campuses into
their downtowns. Like we have.
Where has it worked? How did it work? Show me how it could work here? Who is ready to take this up and run with it?
So, the new year being just around the corner, this seemed like a good opportunity to look at something we want -- downtown and neighborhood revitalization -- and how it has been achieved.
Others have worked to capitalize on their
Victorian housing stock.
Like we have.
What struck me most about the explanations is how often the thing that brought about success took years and years of steady dedication to a course of action.
In few cases did I see one explosive project that turned everything around.
Rather, it was more like turning the Queen Mary, it took time and many, many small adjustments in course to get where you want to go, all the while staying true to the course.
Still others have tried to bring upscale,
market-rate housing to the
downtown area. Like we have.
Of course that's always been the problem here in Pottstown, agreeing on a course. Everyone wants to be the captain of their own little part of the ship.
We've got some new leaders in town this year, let's hope we can all put our fiefdoms aside and agree on a course.
Because, judging by the examples of success outlined below, that is the only thing that has ever been shown to work.
Here is a look at the Forbes sampling:
Montrose In Houston, Texas
The neighborhood lying west of downtown Houston, Montrose has reaped the rewards of a $2.6 billion revitalization project installed in the late 1990s, with home values well above Houston’s other neighborhoods.
Downtown Salem In Salem, Mass.
Once a locale that drew more tourists than residents, the storied site of witch trials has welcomed dozens of retail stores and restaurants and more than 400 newly built residences in the past decade.
Downtown Greenville In Greenville, S.C.
Three decades went into the business district’s revitalization, much of which centers around Main Street. Luxury residences have popped up in the past decade and business has been helped by the relocation of a baseball stadium in 2006.
Borough Of Collingswood, N.J.
This “dry” Philadelphia-area community has reaped the rewards of a new light rail station along Haddon Avenue. Development initiatives kicked off in 1996 when the Borough began buying and cleaning up properties for residential use.
Browne's Addition In Spokane, Wash.
After a half century of decline, Spokane’s oldest neighborhood underwent a long planning process during which Victorian-style street fixtures were installed to play up the historic neighborhood’s buildings, parks were cleaned up and an increasing number of residents resulted in a mini-building boom in the past six years.
The Paseo In Oklahoma City, Okla.
Non-profits and the local community led the cleanup efforts for this revived artists’colony just north of downtown, where more than 15 art galleries have opened and real estate prices climb despite the nation’s housing market woes.
Downtown Fargo In Fargo, N.D.
Since 1999 more than $100 million in investments have poured into the so-called “Renaissance Zone.” Building values rose 100% from 2000 to 2009 and North Dakota State University’s expansion in the area has led to a growing young adult demographic.
Charles Village In Baltimore, M.D.
An enclave plagued by high crime rates, local alliances and residents got a benefits district passed through the Maryland State Assembly to up security and sanitation measures. Crime has been cut in half and cleanup competitions to beautify homes have revamped the aesthetic.
LoDo In Denver, Colo.
Formerly a rundown warehouse district, Denver’s lower downtown area welcomed a restoration renaissance after $240 million in public funds were designated to cleaning up the streets and more than 100 Victorian warehouses and buildings were restored.
I've left off the last, which is Lower Manhattan, because New York City is, in so many ways, a world of its own when it comes to real estate.
But for the rest, look at what worked folks:
1) Public/private funding partnerships;
2) Recognizing and spending money to restore historic buildings;
3) State partnerships and funding to fight crime and blight;
4) "Renaissance Zones," sound familiar don't they. Can anyone say "Keystone Opportunity Zone?"
5) Local colleges expanding into downtowns;
6) Measures to attract artists and young people;
7) Local government taking over dilapidated and abandoned properties and fixing them up for re-sale;
8) More market-rate homes downtown.
So what worked? Yes.
It all did, in some way or another and its all things we either have going now, or have identified as something that will help downtown Pottstown.
The economy is slowly turning around, let's set the course, stick to it, and capitalize on it for the good of us all.