Pennsylvania Downtown Center has named its best performing Main Street programs of 2019, recognizing those programs that have demonstrated an “across the board” capacity to generate new jobs, new businesses, public and private investment and volunteer hours during 2018.

The top performing Main Street Programs across the Commonwealth are 1st place Easton Main Street Initiative, 2nd place Building a Better Boyertown, 3rd place Our Town Foundation in Hamburg, 4th place Quakertown Alive!, 5th place Ebensburg Main Street Partnership, 6th place Downtown Lewistown, Inc., 7th place Downtown Hazleton Alliance for Progress, 8th place Oil City Main Street Program, 9th place Castle Shannon Revitalization Corp., and 10th place Downtown Bedford, Inc.

“Recognition as the 3rd top performing program in the state shows that Our Town Foundation continues to administer a strong downtown Main Street Program 17 years after its initial designation,” said Deena Kershner, Executive Director of Our Town Foundation.

Hamburg Borough officially was designated as a Main Street Community in 2002 by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.

“The Foundation continues to follow the 4-point approach of community revitalization: Promotions and Marketing, Economic Vitality, Design and Beautification, and Organization and Fund Raising. In order to have a strong community, all four points need to be addressed,” said Kershner. “The town must be marketed as a whole in order to attract visitors and to encourage residents to support the downtown shops and service sectors.”

Equally important is the ambiance and cleanliness of the town, she said.

“Benches, greenery, outdoor dining, beautiful window displays, and clean streets are all essential to attract people into the downtown,” said Kershner. “The Economic Vitality Committee of Our Town Foundation strives to strengthen the existing businesses by offering workshops and networking meetings and it also seeks new businesses to fill existing vacancies. But most importantly, there needs to be a strong organizational structure in place that has the ability to raise money to implement programs and projects.”

Kershner said that being named the 3rd top performing program in the state shows that OTF’s efforts are paying off.

“In 2018 there was major investment in the town, mainly with the renovation of the Miller’s 5 & 10 building being renovated for the 1787 Brew Pub. Several other new businesses opened within the past few years including the Bismarck B & B, Bouchette Winery, Four Twelve Coffee Shop, Hamburg Antiques, and more recently the Lazy Dog Vintage Market and the Blue Coast, both located on State Street. We also have a strong volunteer base with several community members serving on each of our committees,” she said.

Kershner said OTF’s Main Street program is a major player in community revitalization in Hamburg.

"Over the years we have received over $3,000,000 in grant funding from federal, state, and county programs as well as Foundations and corporate giving programs, all of which was invested into the community.”

The Our Town Foundation has implemented the following: improvements and beautification of three of the Borough-owned parking lots, downtown streetscape improvement, historic mural program, Hometown Heroes banners, façade improvement program, benches and trash receptacles in town, hiking and biking trails, holiday decorations, placed directional signs throughout town, purchased and preserved the Hamburg Strand Theater and continue to successfully manage theater daily operations, received National Historic District designation for the downtown, design and printing of several brochures distributed to promote the town, manage the website, host networking mixers and business workshops, administer the Hamburg Area Arts Alliance and manage the Art & Craft Gallery of Hamburg, and also promote the town through social media, brochures, print advertising, etc.

OTF also hosts the Artdrenaline three-day camp for kids, organizes many downtown events including the Taste of Hamburg-er Festival,  created a community garden, and planted several native wildlife gardens.

The OTF office serves as the area’s information center also.

Founded in 1987, the mission of Pennsylvania Downtown Center is to build and support the capacity of local nonprofit organizations, municipalities and individuals to enhance the overall well-being and sustainability of Pennsylvania’s communities.

Lisa Mitchell is an editor for Berks-Mont Newspapers, covering news and events in the Northeast Berks County area.

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