Zoning expansion of downtown district can be launching pad

Zoning changes aren’t the most sexy of government actions.

But Williamsport’s economic revitalization committee took an important first zoning step this past week regarding expansion of the Central Business District in the city.

An amendment to the city zoning map would expand the Central Business District farther west toward Elmira and West Third streets to accommodate more retail and commercial opportunities. It was reviewed by the committee.

As it stands now, the parcels are split down the middle of the development area between an area zoned for commercial service that permits warehousing and the Central Business District zone, which provides for both commercial and business growth opportunities.

The expansion of the Central Business District zone goes before the Williamsport Planning Commission Monday and then to City Council.

With approvals, the zoning change would make it easier to engineer plans for Destination 2014, which are impressive but in flux.

So far, The Liberty Group, a local development firm, has acquired the YMCA building and plans to renovate the former Pickelner Arena into a large civic arena.

Also planned is an athletic training complex and reconditioning of the existing “Y” building into executive style apartments and leasable office space.

The city administration wants to see a town square idea with green space for entertainment and recreation and an area along West Third Street built into a parking deck.

The city has hired two consultants to find economic development opportunities and pursue financing beyond what is already lined up for Destination 2014.

All of these things become easier to turn into reality with the zoning expansion of the Central Business District.