Federal grant allows Reading to acquire center city properties

Buildings are key component in downtown revitalization plans, officials say

Grant allows Reading to acquire center city properties

READING, Pa. - Reading has used $2.5 million in federal money to buy five properties in center city, officials announced Tuesday.

The acquisition of the properties at 445, 447, 449, and 451 Penn St. and 12 North 5th St. is a key component in the city's plans for downtown revitalization, officials said.

"Our plan is to take initial control of these properties to ensure that they are rehabilitated and reused in ways that are keeping with our plans for downtown," said Mayor Vaughn Spencer, D-Reading.

The block of properties, which have been owned since 2004 by Rafi and Shaul Ashkenazi, is located within the area that the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development has designated a "Main Street" program. An official announcement on that is planned for Wednesday.

One of the properties, the old Farmers National Bank building, was recently vacated by Citizens Bank. Some of the properties are still occupied while others need considerable work, said officials, adding that the next step will be to develop a plan for their reuse.

"Our plan is to have professionally designed options for this important block," said Carole Snyder, the city's managing director. "We need a design that will both preserve the stately architecture of these historic buildings and create viable and desirable uses for downtown."

The state Main Street designation, officials said, will help the city further improve the downtown business area, with the program's tagline being "Downtown Reading…All Aboard!"

Resources will include grants for façade and street-scape improvements, business attraction and retention and other economic development efforts.

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