Downtown Marketing and Development

Insights and observations on the redevelopment and revitalization of post-industrial towns on the Route 422 Corridor in Southeastern Pennsylvania.


Trust the Science

German Political Scientist Robert Michels (1876– 1936) theorized the "iron law of oligarchy" during his attempts to explain exclusive organizational behavior. It is as follows:

All forms of organization, regardless of how democratic they may be at the start, will eventually and inevitably develop oligarchic tendencies, thus making true democracy practically and theoretically impossible, especially in large groups and complex organizations.

The Value of Design in Maintaining Regional Marketplace Position

One of the things I look for when strategically repositioning a municipal entity is how a place looks. I have always been a fan of historic resources and how they impact the sense of place in a town. 

Infill construction is an important part of the design effort. When you are in the city, there is a lot of color in the apartment buildings, which is done to turn the nature of the space. I am not big on those kinds of buildings. I like the infill to look like it belongs. 

Repositioning in the Regional Marketplace

I recently saw a newspaper article about the Municipality of Norristown proposing repositioning the municipality in the regional marketplace. It was refreshing to hear someone take a serious approach to improving the town. 

Norristown has witnessed a hyper-segregation of low-income people in one area. The hyper-segregation of low-income people resulted from well-meaning people seeking to provide housing for that population. Unfortunately, clustering this type of development over the years has a cumulative effect.

Foot Traffic is the Key to Cities Survival

As cities continue to come back from the pandemic, Center City Philadelphia is trying to track the foot traffic in relation to pre-pandemic 2019. Their recent study shows that it is about 77 percent of what would have been considered normal before Covid-19.

Changes in Place as Space Use Evolves

I have worked in several different sections of Philadelphia, and recently both of my former streets have been in the news. Repeated shootings on South Street have left the street shell-shocked and led to retail store vacancies far greater than anything I remember in my 30 years in Philadelphia. Kensington Ave (The Avenue) has continued to experience problems like those I experienced during my time there in the early 1990s.

Cities Changing with the Times

Remote work has changed the office market in many cities. However, things are far from the ghost towns I saw in the spring of 2021 when I visited 70 cities to inventory and chronicle the effect of the lockdown on cities.

South Street's Redefined Market Position

I visited South Street in Philadelphia this week to have lunch with a long-time friend. It was the day after there was a news article that had people questioning the closure of the side streets during the Made in America concert weekend. It appeared to me that the police were trying to limit access to the commercial area because they were afraid of violence. 

Flooding in Downingtown

For the past few months, I have been working with a committee in my hometown of Downingtown concerning flooding. I sent out a mailing asking interested people to form a committee. About ten people are involved, and each has a different interest in the process.

One Committee worked on mitigation and was eventually merged with the Borough of Downingtown Flood Committee to have one mitigation committee. Community members understand and know the conditions on the ground during a flood and have a voice at the table, which is how it is supposed to work.

As American as Mom and Apple Pie

Recent efforts to change how we feel about sexual identity have caused a stir throughout the hinterland. In a recent article, I explained that I had no problems calling people by their preferred pronoun.

But now, the term motherhood is under attack. You are no longer a mother but a birthing parent. I fail to see how that would mix with the freedom of pronouns, as it does not appear that all people could give birth. But I do not know, as people are having a problem defining what a woman is.

Stochastic Events and Change, Trust the Narrative

All, all that you dream 
Comes to shine in silver lining 
And clouds, clouds change the scene 
Rain starts washing all these cautions 
Right into your life, make you realize 
Just what is true, what else can I do 
Just follow the rule 
Keep your eyes on the road that's ahead of you 

            Paul Barrere / William H Payne

Sexual Identity and Change

I recently changed my pronouns to "It" and "Itself" because pronouns are not something I wish to address in my life. However, I still say "yes sir" and "yes mam" without regard for the nuances in public discourse.

Last Days of Lockdown

Within days I will be rolling out a new website highlighting to my trip across the country from May 15 to June 15, 2021. I am glad I could make the trip to visit cities across America. Thank my benefactor, Manny DeMutis, for letting me work on creative projects.

I took special care to visit friends along the way as we shared stories of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Hazy memories of hazy times added to the lure of the visits. Being in Charleston, WV, where I went to school, and Memphis, Tennessee, where I was a union organizer, made me a little nostalgic. 

Change: The Ability to Say What You Think

Knowledge and technology have a way of inserting themselves to change customs and traditions of the past. What a person believed and spoke about in one era could be accepted as true, only to determine that it was false later because of a deeper understanding of the subject. I still believe Galileo was a heretic.  

Change: Law and Order in the Cities 2022

As I visited cities across America between May 15 and June 15, 2021, I felt very secure walking around 70 towns and cities. I had a couple of incidents but nothing major. Most of my career has been spent working in less than stellar areas and performing community development tasks. I am familiar with the routine of hard-core teenagers and unstable homeless seeking to be aggressive.

Preparing for a Disaster

As I muddle through the plethora of options on flood recovery and mitigation in Downingtown, I have been struck by the FEMA and PEMA staff's professionalism. We have been able to make inroads in flood recovery due to their involvement and participation.

Flood Relief in Downingtown

Recently I was asked to help with the flood relief effort in Downingtown. As in many cases, I am helping at no cost. Unfortunately, the Borough of Downingtown is up against it with the flooding this year. There have been two floods, and the lower-income areas that have typically been located in flood plains and industrial areas were hit hard.

The Borough Building was flooded and the flood mitigation plan was destroyed. My mission was to expedite the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) buyout program.

Equity and Inclusion

What I have found interesting is the debate over what is being taught in schools. For example, when I was young, in Fords, New Jersey, school #14, we said the "Lord's Prayer" right after the Pledge of Allegiance. Then someone would be required to read a bible passage in front of the class. It was almost putting you on the spot. You had to be able to read, and if you went up there and stumbled around, it did not reflect well for you.

Institutional Poverty

While at the recent statewide downtown conference in Reading, I spent a couple of days checking out the city. One of the mobile workshops was held at a public housing complex close to the hotel. 

What Makes the Reading to Philadelphia Train Project so Compelling?

The first time I tried to work on passenger rail service to Phoenixville (Greenline project), I thought we had a good chance of completing the project, and, at the time, the Citizens for the Train group was in high gear. There was a contribution from Liberty Property Trust to do the initial study, and there was participation from Norfolk Southern as we negotiated for the line. 

Office Contraction May Exceed My Estimation

As I toured America the last month or so, I saw that many cities were ghost towns. If there was a large office concentration, those buildings stood vacant. Corresponding retail was either completely closed and all of the inventory pulled off the shelves or closed without notice of closure with inventory and fixtures remaining inside. It was hard to tell if the stores with inventory remaining would ever open. 

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