New vision emerging for downtown revitalization

Scranton, Pennsylvania Kenneth Okrepkie The Times Tribune February 19, 2018 Economic Development

For many years, the city of Scranton faced a variety of challenges. It doesn’t matter whose fault it was or wasn’t. What matters is that our city and region must continue to move forward because we are all in the same boat. As the city becomes more vibrant, bustling with shoppers and people eating in local establishments, a sense of pride and optimism follows when you find a specialty item from a local merchant or enjoy a wonderful meal in your favorite restaurant.

To support the revitalization of our downtown, Scranton Tomorrow is positioned to be the economic driver for revival. During the last 12 months, Scranton Tomorrow, in association with a host of partners, including Scranton Mayor Bill Courtright, city council members, the Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce and local legislators’ staffs, state Sen. John Blake and Lackawanna County representative, has been meeting to identify a clear strategic vision. The process was led and supported by an independent third party, the National Resource Network.

In association with stakeholders including the University of Scranton, Lackawanna College, the mayor’s team, various corporations, downtown business owners and developers, Scranton Tomorrow’s staff and volunteers are pursuing strategies to include clean and green efforts, downtown revitalization efforts and promotional activities to attract people to the business district. In addition, we must find ways to leverage public-private partnership opportunities to support private investment in our city.

In order to support the downtown revitalization, a formal document with projects for the downtown is being coordinated so, as funding sources become available, Scranton Tomorrow will apply for grants to reinvest directly in the downtown. The vacant lot on the corner of Wyoming Avenue and Linden Street is a prime example. Working together with other parties, Scranton Tomorrow acquired $400,000 from the Keystone Communities program to revitalize the lot as a pocket park.

Without a good strategic plan and all parties working toward a common vision, that lot would have stayed an abandoned eyesore and the $400,000 would have gone to revitalization projects in other locations.

Our strategic planning and implementation effort has already resulted in tangible projects and it is our goal to have this success lead to a business improvement district to be managed by Scranton Tomorrow. As the warmer weather approaches, it is nice to see partners and stakeholders all rowing in the same direction. I expect that this trend will continue because it is easier to make progress as we all row together.