Downtown Marketing and Development

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


Filling Vacant Storefronts After the Pandemic

I am currently in Portland OR on my cross-country journey to evaluate the recovery from the 2021 lockdown. I was deeply impressed by the transformative power of innovative strategies and the strategic use of ground-floor retail. These approaches are not only breathing new life into the towns but also fostering a sense of optimism and advancement.

Downingtown Property Owners and Residents to Address Flooding

As a property owner in Downingtown for the last twenty years or so, I have experienced three floods that have affected the community. They all caused a lot of damage, and it took a long time to recover. The flooding during Hurricane IDA was particularly devastating.

The thing about Downingtown is that, in many cases, if it is not raining, there is no problem, and it is time to move on. I tried to work through the process to address flooding issues and found the process onerous locally. 

Establishing a “Sense of Place”

When Fred Kent created and ran the Project for Public Spaces, he inspired me with the placemaking concept, and I became very interested in learning. He was somehow ousted later, and the group of 400 people he put together internationally collapsed under new management. 

I always remember what he said about how you can only hold someone’s interest for about 100 feet when they are walking in a downtown setting. Figure twenty-five feet per storefront would be like four storefronts in terms of distance.

The Second Round of Lockdown Study

I plan on another nationwide evaluation of downtown vacancies due to the 2021 lockdown.  This time, I will leave a few days before I did in 2021 and hope it does not get upper 90s temperatures in some of the locations, as I encountered in 2021. 

I will also be able to have solid data on office vacancies in many of the big cities during this round. Still, I can also quickly determine the office vacancies in some small towns that I need to rank in the system. 

Please Follow the Narrative

Since the last column, I have been involved in some level of controversy, which has put my professional judgment at odds with a narrative. My credentials in the area of aberrant behavior are substantial — In both my behavior and the behaviors I seek to change. Although much has changed in my personal life, the memories of what would be a potentially good place to be aberrant are fresh in my mind.

Dealing with Open Air Drug Markets

I remember watching The Wire on an HBO binge. I had worked in Baltimore, both in the county and city. In the city, I worked in the Patterson Park Area and did tenant conversions from renter to homeowner. In the Wire lingo, I worked in Prop Joe’s area. I laughed about how they set up “Hamsterdam," an open-air drug market.

Towns Struggle with Post-Pandemic Adjustments

Many cities throughout the United States are struggling with the post-pandemic world. Much of the problem was self-induced when we all went into hiding and started working from home. Only a little was happening in the downtowns, and most was happening took place outside. 

Technical And Administrative Elites in Today’s Society

My first job out of college was working for the AFL-CIO in the international headquarters across from Layfette Park in Washington, D.C. I was tasked with compiling a manual explaining the new Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1971 and managed speakers at ten workshops nationwide. I had a lot of time on my hands and was tasked with the federal register monitoring on the Act.

Life in America – Homeless Encampment Edition

The lockdown of 2021 created an upheaval in many lives. Everyone had to shelter in place for a year. This created many issues in our daily routine. My wife and I got to know each other well as we worked from home. We each got a monthly paycheck, even though my work was in slow motion because it was public sector work.

Trust the Science and Follow the Narrative

Last week I saw something I had not seen since the publication of the Covert Action Bulletin in the 1970s. The court has prohibited the government from censoring dissenting opinions. It concerned vaccine deniers and, in general, those unwilling to accept everything and the "trust the science" exception to free speech.

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.

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