Classic Towns Tour showcases Manayunk’s strengths

Representatives from 11 nearby towns strolled through Manayunk on Wednesday to learn about the neighborhood’s history and ongoing evolution.

Town officials and local business owners met in Northwest Philadelphia for the second half of the second annual Classic Towns of Greater Philadelphia Trolley Tour, an event organized by the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission.

“It’s a great opportunity for all of the communities to come together and learn about each other,” said DVRPC Executive Director Barry Seymour of the tour.

Jane Lipton, executive director of the Manayunk Development Corporation, said the event gives folks from different towns the opportunity to organically network with one another.

“This is so collegial and friendly,” she said. “It allows for discussions that might not happen across a conference table.”

Lipton said the program gives her and other neighborhood leaders the opportunity to evaluate their efforts to improve the community.

“It kind of refocuses that lens for us from time to time, making us realize that a lot of people do live here and we have to think about what the experience is of the people that live here,” she said.

Asked about the benefits of hosting the Trolley Tour, Lipton said “it helps us to get our story out about where we’ve come from, what we’ve done, where we’re going.”

During the tour, led by Lipton and Kay Sykora of the Schuylkill Project, a group walked along the Manayunk Towpath and Main Street, the neighborhood’s commercial corridor.

Along the way, Sykora and Lipton pointed out Towpath landmarks such as the Manayunk Stoops and discussed upcoming development projects such as the renovation of the Manayunk Canal and the construction of the Manayunk Bridge Trail.

Philadelphia’s Department of Parks and Recreation is scheduled to renovate sections of the Towpath this summer.

The Manayunk Bridge Trail is currently in the design phase. That project will transform more than two miles of defunct railroad tracks into a walking and biking path that will provide an uninterrupted connection between Lower Merion and Manayunk.

Lipton said she hopes people walked away from the tour with a sense of how great a place Manayunk is, and the understanding that reinvention was responsible for making that happen.

“Growth must be ongoing,” said Lipton. “And if what you do is not continuously nurtured and moved forward it becomes old.”

The group also toured Ardmore, Pa. – located less than 20 miles outside of Manayunk – Wednesday morning.

The Classic Towns event publicly announced the addition of three more towns to the program. They are Lansdale in Montgomery County, Kennett Square in Chester County and Bordentown City in Burlington County.

Classic Towns are home to traditional commercial corridors that can be reached by foot and several modes of transportation and residential streets that are walkable and showcase a diverse housing stock, among other things.

Each town contributes $2,500 to DVRPC, which then matches that money for marketing those Classic Towns, among other things.

There are now 21 locations part of the Classic Towns of Great Philadelphia program, including two others from the Philadelphia area, which are Germantown and Overbrook Farms.

Manayunk was designated as a Classic Town in 2008, the initiative’s inaugural year.

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