Williamsport seeing rebirth in downtown business activity

There was a time in the 1940s, 50s and 60s when the walking areas of downtown Williamsport were not wide enough to accommodate the numbers of people shopping in the dozens of stores that lined West Fourth and West Third streets and all the connecting thoroughfares.

Those days are long gone.

But business people interviewed in a recent Sun-Gazette story say rumors of downtown Williamsport’s permanent demise are way off base.

They are plenty happy to be downtown. Now, instead of an exodus to a sharply reduced Lycoming Mall, they are seeing respectable traffic from people in center city Williamsport for a variety of reasons.

Downtown Williamsport still has some empty storefronts.

But it also has a plethora of quality restaurants and entertainment anchors in the Community Arts Center and Community Theatre League as well as a movie complex.

Those venues, which underscore Williamsport’s rich arts portfolio, are magnets to downtown activity, which creates a market for many local businesses.

The daytime traffic is enhanced by a strong office and rental housing presence downtown.

And the Gateway Project, which will modernize traffic patterns and infrastructure in downtown’s eastern extreme, will only stoke the renaissance in the next two to three years.

The first physical signs of that project are sprouting up even before this winter ends.

Anyone cynical about downtown Williamsport’s business vital signs need only take a trip to other cities of similar size to see that center city’s condition and outlook is relatively strong.

And that is good for all of Lycoming County’s economic outlook.