The story of Hanover, Pennsylvania, a small borough of about 15,000 residents between Gettysburg and York is familiar to towns across the Commonwealth.
A recent series from The Evening Sun asks, “How did a once-bustling downtown Hanover become a shell of its former self?” Where’s the heart of Hanover’s Center Square today? And, what will it take to breath new life into the borough’s downtown?
The series begins by delving into the glory days of Hanover’s past. Former residents wax poetic about the 1950’s and 60’s when they could see a movie at the Hanover State Theatre or shop at The Bon Ton department store. But like many Pennsylvania town centers, by the 1970’s, downtown Hanover had hit hard times. It wasn’t the closing of a mill or other dominant industry that drove people away from Center Square.
Reporter Mark Walters explains:
As the appearance of the land and its uses changed, baby boomers began to migrate to the suburbs. And their beloved downtown stores followed them, setting up malls and shopping centers north and south of town. The expansion led to traffic congestion on the square as Hanover became more of a pass-through community than a retail and entertainment destination.
Left in the wake were large, empty buildings in Hanover, some of which were eventually filled by banks and other small businesses. Others remain vacant today.
According to The Evening Sun, about 100 businesses are still open in and around Center Square today, but many retailers struggle to get customers through the door.
All is not doom and gloom for downtown Hanover, though. The series shows that with new business owners working together in the area, business district grants, and major development projects underway, many are hopeful downtown Hanover will become a destination once again.
Read the entire series, Revitalizing Hanover, from The Evening Sun by Mark Walters, Jennifer Wentz and Lauren Linhard.