On February 9, I first blogged about the Heritage Action Planning process getting underway in Pottstown with a grant from the Schuylkill River Heritage Area. As a consultant working with Pottstown resident Tom Carroll on implementing the grant for the Borough, I also sent out emails & a questionnaire to a list of potential “Partners” in the process.
The overall intent of creating a Heritage Action Plan (HAP) is to improve the connections between the Trail and downtown Pottstown and to identify and leverage existing arts, cultural, historical and recreational resources to spur economic activity.
Based on a few recent conversations, I’d like to give a pared down explanation of what this process is all about and why it needs strong participation from arts & cultural organizations, educational institutions, government, businesses and restaurants – all of whom are known as “Partners.”
1. When we finish the Heritage Acton Plan or HAP by the end of April, we’re going to immediately turn around and apply for $25,000 from the SRHA to enact the plan by May 2012. This isn’t going to be just another planning study that sits on a shelf; we’re going to get something done.
2. The HAP will include marketing strategies, branding, and physical enhancements to make people aware of what’s downtown.
3. We want to create a Trail Town identity for Pottstown. More and more it’s looking like High Street will become a permanent leg on the Schuylkill River Trail. As the Trail connections are completed between Philly and Pottsville, more and more people are going to be coming through Pottstown. We want them to know that they can stop in Pottstown and find something to do and something to eat. (Pottstown needs to simultaneously look at its zoning and create a package of economic development incentives for new & existing businesses downtown, too, but that’s not part of the HAP process.)
4. Visitors coming off the Trail might not be in a position to go to a nice restaurant or the Tri-PAC that day. But once we get them downtown, we want them to know EVERYTHING that’s available so they want to come back again to experience something else.
5. One of the main outcomes of this plan will likely be VISIBLE & ATTRACTIVE KIOSKS at the Riverfront Park Trailhead, at a possible new trailhead in Pollock Park in south Pottstown, and in the downtown. The trailhead kiosks will make it clear how to get to High Street. All of them will have maps and show what’s available downtown by categories like: The Arts, Historical Attractions, Casual Dining, Fine Dining, Recreation.
6. These kiosks will essentially be “telling a story” that informs and entices EVERYONE to walk around, enjoy local history & architecture, see an art show or the performing arts, and stop in at a restaurant. The marketing of Pottstown as a Trail Town is meant to touch a wider audience of visitors, not just Trail users.
7. The Schuylkill River Heritage Area wants to help the towns along the river use the Trail as an economic engine. This Heritage Action Planning process is the first step.
Anyone interested in being a Partner is invited to meet other Partners and participate in a workshop with the Schuylkill River Heritage Area’s consultants, Peter Johnston & Associates, on Friday, March 4 from 1:30-5 p.m. at the Tri-County Area Chamber of Commerce, 152 E. High Street, Pottstown, PA 19464. Please RSVP to Sue Repko at PtownHAP@gmail.com or 609-658-9043.