POTTSTOWN, Pa., Feb. 26, 2020—Released this week, an Urban Land Institute advisory services panel report provided fresh ideas for spurring economic innovation and improving life in Pottstown.
The report highlighted the challenges and opportunities that lay before the borough, and it offered examples of communities across the country that have overcome similar challenges. Emphasizing the need to work together, the report also offered a look at the roles that key groups in Pottstown can play to create a unified and cohesive economic development strategy.
"Traditional silos must be broken, and enhanced communication among the governing entities must occur to enact real change," read the report's conclusion. "Coordinated community building, branding, and messaging are key to any economic development action. In Pottstown, growth and change must be led by a unified group, not a fragmented one."
Advisory services panel members meet at the PAHWF headquarters.
The panel, made up of experts from around the nation, visited Pottstown Oct. 20-25. That marked ULI’s fourth visit to Pottstown in the past five decades. Their previous studies—in 1976, 1989, and 2009—resulted in actions that bettered the borough, including designating historic districts, expanding Borough Hall, establishing the Montgomery County Community College West Campus, and developing recreational opportunities along the Schuylkill River. In all these instances, the Institute provided the Pottstown community an opportunity to work towards a common goal.
A key part of ULI’s process was engaging with community leaders and stakeholders. To that end, dozens of community members were invited to the Pottstown Area Health & Wellness Foundation’s headquarters for small group discussions.
“People in Pottstown may have different jobs and different points of view, but we all have a love for this community that was clear in the interview process,” said Pottstown School District superintendent Stephen Rodriguez. “Even though we experience different challenges from different points of view, many of those challenges are connected. Schools are connected to businesses. Businesses are connected to residents. Residents are connected to schools, and so on.”
At the end of their October visit, members of the panel presented their initial findings to about 100 members of the community at The Steel River Playhouse. The panel offered insight into the information gathering process and defined the areas of focus featured in the final report.
“As a stakeholder in this community for the past 15 years, when I read the initial results, I was not only impressed but also encouraged by the clarity that the report brought to our next steps,” said Rodriguez.