“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.
Jon Scott is the president and CEO of the Greater Reading Economic Partnership.
1.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 city/community.
Bring back Passenger Rail to Reading, PA. As most people know, Reading was well served for many decades by Passenger Rail, and several years ago, this function ceased to exist for Reading. We need connectivity by rail to Philadelphia and New York.
2. What’s one urban improvement idea that you would categorize as “nice try but didn’t work”?
The overall concept of Urban Renewal is the quintessential “great idea, but it never really worked in very many communities.”
3. 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.)
In the entire Greater Reading/Berks County area, no one has done more to be a solid sparkplug than Albert Boscov. He created a non-profit, Our City Reading (OCR) which is focused on individual home ownership; he is currently building a 200-plus room hotel opposite Reading’s Santander Center; and he has been significantly responsible for critical development with the Goggle Works Art Center (the single largest integrated arts facility in the United States) along with an IMAX Theater, a fantastic gourmet restaurant (Panevino) and over sixty wonderful apartments all in a corner of downtown Reading that has now become known as the “Arts District.”
4. What flaw or habit does your city/community have that you would like to see change?
We need our city council and administration to work together and become leaders. Many of the City of Reading’s dilemmas are caused by the fact that there is constant bickering amongst the core group of individuals that need to be on the same page as opposed to constantly fighting with each other and not focusing on the big picture.
5. Tell us about a movie or book that depicts, in a way that grabbed your attention, how a city can thrive or fail.
The Option of Urbanism: Investing in a New American Dream by Christopher Leinberger. In fact, several years ago, the Greater Reading Economic Partnership brought Christopher Leinberger to Reading for a presentation, and he is truly a visionary individual who has a passion for the revitalization of American cities.