Scranton charts new path for downtown revitalization

Scranton, Pennsylvania Jim Lockwood The Times-Tribune December 4, 2017 Economic Development

Scranton will take a new path to downtown revitalization by having a local nonprofit group lead the effort.

The city recently completed a downtown economic development plan that will put the nonprofit Scranton Tomorrow organization at the helm. A three-year implementation period aims to lay the foundation for creation of a downtown business improvement district.

The plan would cost $1.8 million over the first three years, with funding to come from various partners, stakeholders and grants. To launch it, the city will allocate $325,000 to

Scranton Tomorrow, including $250,000 from the city’s sewer sale proceeds and $75,000 from the city’s 2018 operating budget.

The initiative by Mayor Bill Courtright, his administration and council, which has been in the works for two years, represents a shift in how the city will pursue economic development downtown. The new direction stems from the Courtright administration’s tapping two years ago of a federally funded organization that helps distressed cities, the National Resource Network, to evaluate Scranton.

In February, Courtright and NRN announced that Scranton Tomorrow would lead the charge. Economic-development tools could include offering businesses and property owners tax incentives, renovating and repurposing old buildings to make them more attractive to buyers and clean-and-green initiatives.

Last month, NRN completed a three-year plan with major initiatives as follows:

  • Sanitation, such as street cleaning and trash removal, graffiti removal and general maintenance and upkeep.
  • Events and marketing, such as holiday lighting, marketing materials, festivals and events.
  • Website upgrades for Scranton Tomorrow, to better promote downtown and events.
  • Downtown redevelopment, to “create a compelling vision to mobilize stakeholders and property owners and connect downtown to broader economic development.”
  • Capital improvements, such as street and sidewalk beautification, wayfinding signs, crosswalk repair and park planning.

“Scranton Tomorrow is an organization that’s been around for 25 years. Now there will be clarification that this organization is going to be very supportive of economic development,” Scranton Tomorrow President Ken Okrepkie said Friday. “The mayor, council, chamber, universities, economic development partners and Scranton Tomorrow are all rowing together for a vibrant, stronger downtown.”