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Community Forum: Reading Downtown Plus Strategic Plan

by The Berks Alliance

Aug 31, 2021

The City of Reading has engaged an international consulting firm, Stantec, to help create a strategic plan that will shape the core of the city over the next decade.  Reading is now the 4th largest city in Pennsylvania.

With Alvernia’s CollegeTowne already beginning to change the face of Reading, but more will follow. What will become of the Reading Eagle Building or the Post Office.  What is the future of the Callowhill Buildings at 5th and Penn Streets or the Trexler Mansion?  If we are successful in restoring passenger rail service to Reading, what impact could that have on the city?

This strategic plan will address these issues and more.

How do we celebrate the diversity of Reading?  How do we support local businesses and entrepreneurs? Can we create more affordable and attainable housing options in the downtown?

The façade improvement projects supported by the Berks Alliance, the Greater Reading Chamber Alliance and the South of Penn Project have begun to change the face of Reading.  How do we build on these efforts?  What will become of the Schuylkill Riverfront—can it be more of an asset?  Will we create pedestrian walkways to encourage people to move through the neighborhoods?  What will become of the public spaces, the courtyards and passageways?  Can we create a sense of place, of belonging and engagement?  How do we connect the core of the city to West Reading, the 18th Ward and the Centre Park neighborhoods?  How do we join the history that is Reading with the future of the city?  How will parking be handled?

There is unmet demand for retail and restaurant offerings in downtown Reading. There will be opportunities to bolster a downtown economy driven by food, beverage, and unique retail, particularly that is reflective of and celebrates Reading’s diverse cultures. Downtown Reading is home to theaters, music venues, sports arenas, lodging, and a convention center. The Goggleworks and the Penn Street Farmers Market have become notable downtown attractions. How do we build on these assets?

This strategic planning process coincided with the convergence of several transformative events, including the global COVID-19 pandemic, a significant economic downturn, and broad-based awakening around social justice, and significant federal relief funding, all of which have had or will have an impact on the downtown Reading community. A safe, clean and vibrant downtown will be a critical component of the city’s recovery and resiliency efforts. There are new resources available to help support these efforts, but they will require thoughtful strategies to use them effectively.

For this strategic plan to be successful, it will require the support of the entire community, in fact the entire region.  Public-private partnerships will be vital.  The city cannot do it alone.

When: Sept 23, 2021 11:30 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

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