Berks Co Community Fund President Kevin Murphy on “guerilla revitalization” and eschewing silver bullets

    Berks County Community Fund President Kevin Murphy says some revitalization initiatives in Greenville

    Berks County Community Fund President Kevin Murphy says some revitalization initiatives in Greenville

    “Five Questions with …” is a regular Keystone Crossroads feature where we seek to glean wisdom and ideas from some of Pennsylvania’s top urban thinkers and doers. Kevin Murphy heads the Berks County Community Fund with offices in Reading and Boyerstown.

    “Five Questions with …” is a regular Keystone Crossroads feature where we seek to glean wisdom and ideas from some of Pennsylvania’s top urban thinkers and doers. Kevin Murphy heads the Berks County Community Fund with offices in Reading and Boyerstown. The non-profit has been working to improve the quality of life in Berks County since 1994 through its dozens of grant and scholarship programs. Tennis equipment for disadvantaged youth, public library projects and job training and education for impoverished women are a few of the widely varied beneficiary activities supported by its programs.

    Q: Tell us about an amenity or service that you’ve seen in your travels to other places that you wish you could bring back to your community.

    A: Great public art and interactive water features. Greenville, S.C., has done a wonderful job of implementing cool art into its downtown. The art provides opportunities for people to interact with the space around them. There are, for instance, a number of small brass mice hidden throughout downtown and children can download a sheet of clues to go on a family scavenger hunt to find them.

    Q: What’s one urban improvement idea that you could categorize as, “nice try but didn’t work”?

    A: In general, the “silver bullets” don’t work. Politicians love big capital projects like arenas and convention hotels, but the real key to rebuilding our cities lies in supporting small business growth and programming that brings non-residents back to the cities.

    Q: Describe a person in your community who is a “spark” — someone who seems to get things done and inspire people. (This does not need to be an elected official.)

    A: I’m really impressed with Brian Kelly, executive director of “ReDesign Reading.” In a short time, he’s pulled off a number of “guerilla revitalization projects” like a pop-up bike shop and an outdoor wi-fi hot spot. Brian is a guy who’s making things happen.

    Q: What flaw or habit does your city/community have that you would like to see it change?

    A: Low expectations.

    Tell us about a movie or book that depicts, in a way that grabbed your attention, how a city can thrive or fail.

    A: “A Prayer for the City” by Buzz Bissinger. It’s a gritty and sometimes funny recounting of Ed Rendell’s time as Mayor of Philadelphia. It doesn’t gloss over the messiness of running cities, but it shows how Rendell laid the groundwork for one of the great city turnarounds of all time.

    Is there someone you know who thinks hard about cities and knows how to get things done? Someone whom Keystone Crossroads should send “Five Questions with …” Please let us know in the comment sections below or via Facebook or Twitter @Pacrossroads.

     

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