by Leslie Collins
A recent review of the Scranton Tomorrow archives revealed something noteworthy and inspiring: the vision of its founding members – many of whom are still active board members today – has been realized, or is well underway.
Crafted in the early 1990s, the vision statement painted a picture of a new downtown honoring the region’s historic past while progressing into the future. It included:
■ A historic, revitalized central business district offering a wide array of shopping, professional offices, financial services and human/social services
■ A vibrant residential neighborhood accessible to a variety of arts and cultural venues, fine dining and entertainment
■ Downtown institutions of higher education, health care and worship to foster life-long learning, and support the physical and spiritual health of the community
■ Nearby recreational and heritage venues to support a high-quality live, work and play environment that truly makes Downtown Scranton “electric”
How exciting to consider that what was once a lofty vision is now reality.
Inspired by the start of a new year – one whose digits point to a period of clarity – here are a few wishes for the future of the City of Scranton:
Wish 1: A new Pocket Park will enhance the Downtown landscape.
In partnership with the City of Scranton and Lackawanna County, Scranton Tomorrow is developing a pocket park to enhance the Downtown Business District with much-needed greenspace on the corner of Wyoming Avenue and Linden Street. The project is made possible with funding from a $400,000 Keystone Communities grant, and support from the City of Scranton, the Scranton family estate, Lackawanna County, and the office of Senator John Blake and the Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development. The project is slated for completion this fall.
Wish 2: Pedestrians will discover a more walkable downtown business district.
Scranton is taking a step in the right direction by partnering with Jeff Speck, a city planner and urban designer, to create a more pedestrian-friendly downtown. The community was first introduced to Mr. Speck in December of 2018 at a lecture and booksigning at The University of Scranton. He is the author of “Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time” and “Walkable City Rules: 101 Steps to Making Better Places.” This project is critical to the vitality of downtown businesses and residences.
Wish 3: There will be a renewed sense of pride in “Historic Downtown Scranton.”
Late last year, Scranton City Council passed legislation proposed by (former) Mayor Wayne Evans to expand the footprint of the downtown’s historic district. Scranton is blessed with beautifully detailed and unique architecture, a source of pride for all who live and work in the city. This new designation creates greater opportunities to promote the downtown for its historic significance.
Wish 4: Public art will find a permanent home in the Downtown.
Scranton Tomorrow has been a long-time proponent of the arts, dating back to one of its earliest projects, First Night Scranton. A celebration of art and culture on New Year’s Eve, this annual tradition continued for nearly 20 years, setting the stage for today’s First Friday events. In this spirit, public art would be a welcome addition to the downtown landscape. Public art creates opportunities for economic growth, enhances a community’s identity, adds to the depth of cultural understanding and gives people a sense of pride in their community. Scranton is ready to put its creativity on display for all to view and enjoy.
Wish 5: Residents and business owners in Scranton will continue to see the results of Scranton Tomorrow’s Economic Development Strategic Plan in action.
In 2021, Downtown Scranton will move toward becoming a formal Business Improvement District (BID). That makes 2020 a pivotal year in terms of economic development. Scranton Tomorrow will continue to collaborate with public officials, business and property owners and community leaders to develop new opportunities for economic growth, including events and projects that make Scranton the economic hub of Northeastern Pennsylvania.
While this is certainly not a formal vision statement or plan, this list is designed to plant the seeds for a new era of growth and prosperity in a city that deserves to reach its greatest potential. Through the support of community leaders, partners and dedicated volunteers, these aspirations – and more – can come true.
Happy New Year to all those who make the Electric City shine.
Leslie Collins is the executive director of Scranton Tomorrow, a non-partisan, non-profit economic development organization in Scranton. Reach her via email at email@example.com. To learn more about Scranton Tomorrow, visitscrantontomorrow.org.