Two-way development downtown plausible, but trends die slowly

A well-known city developer, John Albarano II, leveled public criticism at the City of Williamsport last week, alleging that the administration and City Council have an unbalanced set of downtown development priorities.

The developer believes an invisible line runs down the center of Market Street and the area east of that line gets little attention from city decision makers, with the area west of the line hogging all the grant dollars, development plans and special events visibility.

On the face of it, he’s got a good point.

To the naked eye, it certainly appears that the heart of the city starts at Market Street and works west, even though the area east of it is part of the city’s Central Business District zone.

And the biggest development on the drawing board right now is Destination 2014, a major, multi-faceted development that includes reuse of the YMCA building and parcels in the block bordered by West Third, Hepburn, West Fourth and Elmira streets.

But there’s more history than favoritism at the heart of the tilt west of Market Street.

The city’s tradition is that downtown’s footprint runs from Market Street west, so events and developments have tended to flow in the same direction.

And the city is evolving.

A $25,000 consultant’s study has been commissioned by the city for residential and business development in the business district east of Market Street.

There have been several small developments east of Market Street near the Beltway in recent years and the study or other initiatives carry the potential for more as that location becomes more of a go-to development area.

The criticism serves the purpose of bringing more attention to developing the eastern corridor of the city’s Central Business District.

But now that the public flogging is done, we would suggest a better course.

That would involving Albarano and council’s economic revitalization committee working more closely together to make those developments happen.