How do you like your Main Street — old fashioned, retro, flashy?

     A motorcyclist rides by shops and restaurants on Penn Street including Jimmie Kramer’s Peanut Bar in downtown Reading.  (Lindsay Lazarski/WHYY)

    A motorcyclist rides by shops and restaurants on Penn Street including Jimmie Kramer’s Peanut Bar in downtown Reading. (Lindsay Lazarski/WHYY)

    Berks County communities have collectively allocated close to a million dollars this year, on improving Main Street. 

     

    A recent article in the Reading Eagle looks at how some Berks County communities have dedicated Main Street staffers and budgets. Turns out, according to the article, Berks communities have collectively allocated close to a million dollars this year, on improving Main Street. It’s being spent marketing downtown establishments, beautifying streetscapes, holding holiday events, arts festivals, and car shows. Even a family-oriented water balloon fight. And in the plans: more trees, solar powered trash cans, historical tours, new websites to attract student renters, better playgrounds.

    The notion of Main Street is old-fashioned: the whole idea of people heading to town to take care of their business. Not the malls. Not online ordering. You might even stop by the post office and mail an actual letter, and you will certainly run into people you know and chat.

    Or you can call it retro, with people longing for the simplicity of being in a physical gathering space. Surveys and new projects point to the desire for a stretch of sidewalk and stores near where people live. Wide enough for strollers and smooth enough for wheelchairs. Throw in some public water bowls for dogs.

    And then there are efforts to redefine Main Street. Public Wi-Fi to attract and keep people hanging out. Bike lanes and easy parking. Breweries and other “millennial focused” shops.A gym with plate glass windows? An article in The Atlantic calls it a “a brilliant piece of street theater,” displaying the young, hip, and attractive.

    Alan Greenberger, Philadelphia’s Deputy Mayor for Economic Development and Director of Commerce has a lot to say about prettying up Main Streets. Don’t spend too much money on what he calls “fussy sidewalk paving.” Vertical is what people notice: trees, kiosks, signs. “So if you want bang for the buck,” he writes, “think vertical. “

    The Keystone Crossroads team is spending a lot of time on Main Streets, the ones that were, that are, and the ones that could be.

    Tell us what you see, and what you envision, for your Main Street. Add your thoughts in the comment section below, or tweet us at @PaCrossroads.

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