A pep rally of sorts, complete with whistles and cheerleaders, provided what some say is a much-needed shot in the arm to downtown Reading on Wednesday.
C. Alan Walker, the secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, told city and community leaders gathered at 5th and Penn streets that the state has designated the city as a Keystone Community, opening the door to future funding to support downtown development.
The designation, Walker said, will assist Reading’s community revitalization efforts by providing funding priority for infrastructure improvements, revitalization initiatives and community planning assistance that will renovate existing buildings and enhance the downtown area.
"If we can actually get people living in the downtown, above the store fronts, those are automatic customers for any business that comes in," said Charles Broad, executive director of the Downtown Improvement District and manager of Reading's Main Street program.
The announcement was made in front of a set of buildings just purchased by the city, using a $2.5 million federal grant, allowing the city to develop a plan for their reuse.
Downtown Reading will also become part of the state's Main Street program, with the tagline, "Downtown Reading... All Aboard."
"I hope they get some money from the state. That would be nice. It needs to be done," said Dan Katsner, of Reading, who added that he'd like to see more benches and better parking.
The Keystone Communities program was created in 2011 to assist Pennsylvania communities in achieving their revitalization goals.