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“Tell us what you think about Pottstown.”

June 28, 2010

That was an online headline at The Mercury this past Friday, June 25. And then it said, “What positive changes need to be made for Pottstown borough to move forward? Tell us in the comments section below.”

Hmmm… I wondered, “Is this a set-up? Is The Mercury deliberately taunting me over here at Positively!Pottstown?”

I’m sorry, dear readers, I couldn’t hold this in any longer! Here’s what I posted over there this afternoon (as Number5).

” Dear Mercury: thanks for asking! I’ve been thinking about doing a series of blog posts about all these interrelated issues, so I guess this is kind of a jumpstart. Sorry for the length – a lot of pent-up thoughts! And my m.o. is to throw a lot out there and see what resonates on the ground – that’s the spirit in which this is offered.

I’m going to stick with the positive spin of the question – suggesting positive changes.

Pottstown, what’s your story? You need a vision and a voice to communicate that vision. It’s got to go deeper & get more specific than the generalities in study after study. For example: former industrial center retains what is good about its small town past AND re-invents itself for the 21st century. It values its river, historic architecture, walkability, neighborhoods, community gardens and businesses that MAKE things. While the industry used to be all about steel, pies, auto parts, etc., now the town makes art, dance, music, recycled-fashion designs, and solar/green technologies. What the heck, maybe it’s home to several organic coffee roasters too. (This is an example!)

What if just about every decision made by town or a local property owner or civic group took that kind of vision into consideration? There are places billing themselves as “sustainable cities.” Maybe Pottstown could be a “sustainable town”? Could something like that provide the framework for guiding revitalization decisions in Pottstown?

Pottstown has never been for the faint-of-heart; hard-working, gutsy immigrants made this community what it was in its heyday. Now is no different. Arts and business entrepreneurs, who have higher risk levels than the average Joe, would totally be in keeping with Pottstown’s immigrant past.

So, where are these risk-takers? You’ve got a bunch of them in the arts and restaurant community in town already. Another commenter has already mentioned them. Any day now, the Pottstown Arts & Cultural Alliance is going to launch a totally cool new website. PACA is on its way to putting a very new face on outsiders’ perceptions of Pottstown. They are adding value to this community by what they do every day and, now, by more effectively communicating what they offer. And they’re just getting started.

The business community and property owners are critical. Bottom line: You gotta fill the spaces on High Street. I’m putting out there right now: If anyone in the business and real estate community wants to put together a clearinghouse website to market their Pottstown properties in an attractive, easy-to-understand format that SELLS, I will gladly help make that happen within, say, 90 days. I’m from out of town and I’ve gone looking for properties as though I were an investor, and it’s not easy to even find out what’s available, let alone where might be some good locations for specific uses like a café or a used bookstore/literary venue or whatever.

Community groups: reduce fragmentation wherever possible. Join forces around a common, positive, pro-active vision. Link to and intersect with the arts, business & educational communities wherever appropriate.

Good government. There’s no way around this. There has to be a “good government” halo around Boro Hall that can be seen from Routes 422 and 100. Anyone stepping into the building has to know they will be treated courteously, fairly and consistently. There’s got to be follow-through. You got an ordinance on the books, you enforce it. If it doesn’t make sense in your new vision of yourself, you set out on a course of careful, PUBLIC consideration, you ENGAGE the affected parties/property owners, and you change it. The arts, business and community groups can go pretty far if they’re all pulling in the same direction, but unless the foundation of government is strong and inspires confidence, yeah, people are going to be hard-pressed to trust their investments here.

Nail down the vision ASAP. Preferably without paying for another study! Communicate the vision, whatever it is, through your ACTIONS. (I’ve got some more specifics to throw out there, but will deal with that on the blog.) Everyone: get your stories straight and tell it that way, over and over again, every time your organization or collective reaches a milestone, large or small. Give the naysayers less and less to talk about, especially on public message boards! ”

” Sorry, meant to sign that post:

Sue Repko
Positively!Pottstown ”

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4 Comments
  1. June 29, 2010 4:19 am

    Ooops you’ve done it again Sue…

    if you keep throwing out these creative & DO-ABLE visions for Pottstown you are apt to create a “chain reaction of awesomeness”. Link me up!!

  2. Amy Francis permalink
    June 29, 2010 9:54 am

    “Maybe Pottstown could be a “sustainable town”?”

    This is a FANTASTIC vision for Pottstown, one that has been the topic of many a “what if” conversation over the years around our dinner table. The go-to guy on this subject – without a doubt – is Jim Crater from Recycling Services, Inc. just across the river. He is the local guru on sustainability.

    Count me in – I believe Pottstown has everything it needs to make it a reality.

    • June 29, 2010 10:57 am

      I saw him on the web a while ago and had in the back of my mind to do a post on him. Gotta move that closer to the top of the list…

      Of the many reasons to consider a sustainability strategy, a chief one is that it’s not some artificial construct. It was actually at the heart of people’s way of life throughout the history of Pottstown. It’s never been a place of conspicuous consumption, but rather a place to have a “good” life or a “good enough” life. Certainly now it’s worth thinking about what constitutes a life/job that is “good enough,” as major economic contractions continue to take place around the world. Going small, finding a niche, is a perfectly legitimate way for an individual, business or a community to see its way through this crisis. And, in fact, might be the ideal way to live in the long run because it can be sustained, without being propped up by false financial instruments and debt.

      • Amy Francis permalink
        June 29, 2010 11:54 am

        EXACTLY!

        I couldn’t be more on-board with your line of thinking on this. It is definitely within our town’s reach and could be somewhat easily communicated to the public (one the most important components of a successful plan, no?) if done properly. What a huge draw to like-minded people looking for a new place to call home, too!

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