City teams up with college on neighborhood redevelopment

Lycoming College will play a key role in the redevelopment of parts of the eastern section of the Central Business District.

College President Kent C. Trachte addressed City Council Thursday night before council unanimously supported the city administration’s request to apply for a matching $25,000 grant from the state Department of Community and Economic Development toward eventually paying for a plan and bringing in a consultant team to rejuvenate a section of the city where the city originated and had its first courthouse, known as Old City. The city has budgeted $25,000, and Lycoming College is going to contribute $25,000 toward the project.

“We recognize that becoming partners in economic development projects both fits with our civic mission and makes good business sense,” Trachte said. He noted the college’s proximity and indicated intention and potential for a new “gateway” entrance to the campus, particularly along the Basin Street corridor.

“Through this study, we hope to get a better understanding of whether a public-private-college partnership could develop Old City into a vibrant and attractive college town that would complement the economic renaissance that has taken place in the western section of the Central Business District,” Trachte said.

The plan includes hiring a consulting team for about $75,000. The college may also utilize student interns, and city and county staff will work together to conduct background study research.

Council members seemed to like the idea of incorporating various stakeholders of the community in the project, including developers, private individuals, college students and faculty, county planners and city administration officials.

Boundaries of the project are up for discussion but generally would start with Market Street on the west, Chatham Street as the eastern boundary, which may be expanded as the project moves further west, Little League Boulevard, East Fourth Street and East Seventh Street as the northern boundary, and Via Bella and Interstate 180 as the southern boundary.

Council also approved the administration’s efforts to get a local government grant of $15,000 toward assisting the county as its does a historical sites and landmarks update project.

The Survey of Historic Sites and Landmarks, completed in 1971, will be receiving a long overdue update, according to Kim Wheeler, lead county planner. The plan is to use the city’s list of historic properties created in 2005, she said.

An updated survey will be completed that focuses on identifying and documenting the architectural styles, details, characters and significance of landmark properties and other structures representing significant historical merits.

“Beyond these features, each neighborhood has a story to tell that defines its history and helps us understand how it got to where it is today,” Wheeler told the Sun-Gazette.

Ultimately, the updated list of properties will be referenced and made available in an interactive format to the public through the city and county websites.

This mapping product will offer the public the opportunity to digitally access information about the city’s key historic resources and the importance of them to the historic evolution of this community, she said.