I have finished my trip across the country trying to assess public/private space in the cities.
I was gone from May 15 to June 15 and stopped in many cities along the way. I took the southern route to head west and used a northern route to return.
I perceived that the virus has had different outcomes in many of the cities. A common factor was the vacancy rate, and it appeared to be exacerbated by communities that experienced civil unrest. There is considerably less foot traffic in almost all of the towns.
As social mores and values change, so do the programs offered by various agencies of government. Things become popular, and there are buzz words that are used and not fully understood. One of the things that have been given more prominence recently in the news media is the concept of “equity.”
I think that having my basic existence upset at this stage of my life was a surprise. I never thought I would spend a year indoors.
Traveling in Italy looking for a house, I became aware of the virus and just got out in time. Upon arriving back in the U.S., I went to Florida for a while and then again, under emergency action, hightailed it home with one quick stop at a Holiday Inn in Walterboro, South Carolina as at that stage of the virus, the US was putting the clamp on travel.
There are many ways to do things in the public sector, and sometimes proposed programs work, and sometimes they do not. I have made my living using programs that do not necessarily work for everyone. There is usually a substantial discussion on why things work or do not work. Many of these issues are dealt with in planning documents.
Pennsylvania Department of Transportation recently provided a passenger rail analysis concerning a one-seat ride from Reading to Philadelphia. The proposed service corridor includes SEPTA's Main Line from Center City Philadelphia, SEPTA's Norristown Line to Norristown, Norfolk Southern’s Schuylkill River Bridge, and the Harrisburg Line to Reading. The proposed station stops are Valley Forge, Phoenixville, Royersford, Pottstown, Birdsboro, and Reading.
My rail project has taken a lot of twists and turns along the way. As you do these kinds of projects, circumstances change regularly and attitudes toward the potential of success are re-evaluated. After much back and forth, Penn DOT completed a study (synopsis article in issue) assessing the potential for the line. Two and a half studies were done previously with the Reading Group creating an AMTRAK operator Plan, the Mayor's Task Force from Phoenixville using SEPTA as the operator, and an AMTRAK ridership and route analysis, which was part of a larger report.
Many of the downtowns in the Delaware Valley have experienced adverse effects on business because of the Covid-19 virus. The lack of access to customers because of various shutdowns has created many landlord-tenant issues that need to be addressed before businesses can get back on track.
The shutdown also impacted the apartment tenants who have been unable to work. Evictions of longer-term tenants would be an unexpected occurrence but with the lack of the ability to earn a living, some of these issues are beginning to surface.
The shutting down of restaurants and bars has had a lethal effect on small towns that have a healthy food and beverage industry as part of their revitalization strategy. The atmosphere, the events, and the areas used as a common gathering space for festive recreation add to why downtowns have been successful.
The Governor issued an order, and it should be obeyed. If the evidence shows a threat, perhaps it is a good action, and I will not go through the dynamics of the spread of the disease. My ideas are not mainstream and not intended to get too Thomas Dolby with everyone.
If anything, the virus has forced companies to rethink the staffing and meeting strategy of the organization. I had never even heard of Zoom until the virus, and now it is part of the lexicon in a way that Xerox is to copies.
This article is the third and final article in my series on housing history and results. The first article, entitled Spatial “Separation Resulting in Racial Segregation,” dealt with the history of systematic racial exclusion built into the mortgage and credit laws and regulations. The second article, entitled “Hyper-Segregation – a Public Created Entity,” addressed that most minorities were squeezed together in the cities far away from white people to create hyper-segregation. This article will deal with what I have concluded is the potential answer to addressing the problem.
There has been an uptick in towns and cities, allowing open-air dining to increase capacity/distancing issues in restaurants. There was a need to react quickly in a situation where there is a possibility that losing the downtown retail trade that was developed is possible.
It brings into focus how slow things move in government. If these kinds of decisions can be made in a crisis, why does it take so long when things are not in emergency mode? It is puzzling that programs can be developed, making decisions at lightning speed when it usually is a long process.
In my last article, I wrote about the policies and guidelines that have led to the spatial separation of racial minorities. Laws led to segregation as a result of specific neighborhoods being designated as "red" (high risk) through the Home Owner's Loan Corporation (HOLC) starting in 1933 and the policy was perpetuated through the FHA and the VA loan programs.
Many people, some whom I don't even really know, have asked me for help dealing with the recovery programs during the COVID-19 crisis — So much so I posted the rules of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) on my website and sent them to the site, so they did not have to write everything down. In most cases, it was a single form with a bunch of attachments that would be done by their accountant.
The inter-city rail connection from Phoenixville continues to move forward. For purposes of moving the project forward, the Phoenixville School District voted to endorse the effort. The remaining entity to approve is Chester County. All relevant data has been sent to the county and awaits their endorsement to move the project forward.
In recent weeks I have devoted a little more time to addressing issues relating to gentrification in Coatesville. It appeared to me to be where somehow many of the black people in Chester County ended up in one place. There is a spatial separation of minorities in Chester County. Minorities are not evenly distributed throughout the county.
I recently was asked to help the Movement Community Development Corporation in Coatesville, and I thought year-end I would update the progress they are making in the revitalization.
Coatesville has been an area that has drawn a lot of interest in subsidized housing over the years. The City is designated Racial/Ethnic Concentrated Area of Poverty (RECAP), which is not a real good designation to have bestowed. The housing in the area has vacant and underutilized properties and many tangled title properties. There are many rentals in the City, and the homeownership rate is low.
Manny DeMutis is a Phoenixville native who attended Phoenixville School District along with his two sisters Dodi and Ann. They currently comprise the 3D Group, which was responsible for the revitalization of Phoenixville. Manny is married to Kate and they have three daughters Hope, Paige and Ava.
The ultimate family man, he currently spends time traveling to Paige’s Field Hockey events in East Carolina or visiting Hope at Penn State. Because of the nature of his work, Manny spends most of his summers doing business in his beach chair at Cape May.
How do you breathe life into a dying town or a census district that has a lot of poverty and disinvestment? It is pretty tricky when you come to the realization that no one has invested in these areas or properties for a good amount of time. Stores are vacant and the housing becomes the refuge of the low-income population.
When most traditional downtowns were planned, normally there was a residential component to maximize the income of the buildings, and for practical purposes, enable additional rentable space for the owner. Now, with the movement of people back to smaller towns, the modern-day adaption is not quite like it was in the days when these downtowns were originally designed.