Town visioning project underway in Boyertown

Stakeholders take part in a Town Visioning Workshop held on Thursday, May 25, to collaborate on the themes and strategies for the future of Boyertown.
Stakeholders take part in a Town Visioning Workshop held on Thursday, May 25, to collaborate on the themes and strategies for the future of Boyertown. Rebecca Blanchard — For Digital First Media
A Town Visioning Workshop held on Thursday, May 25, and a public meeting will be held in July to seek input from the community.
A Town Visioning Workshop held on Thursday, May 25, and a public meeting will be held in July to seek input from the community. Rebecca Blanchard — For Digital First Media

The Borough of Boyertown is on its way to becoming a destination town. Community leaders and stakeholders are currently working together to shape the future of Boyertown, and now they are seeking the public’s input.

A Town Visioning Workshop was held on Thursday, May 25, with stakeholders to collaborate on the themes and strategies. The goal now, according to main street manager Adrianne Blank, is to narrow down the ideas.

During the workshop meeting, project partners presented their findings regarding Boyertown’s assets and strengths, market opportunities, and community transformation.

Attendees included Greg Herb, Nathaniel Guest, Jane Stahl, Lynn Camella, Susan Biebuyck, Marianne Deery, Frank Deery, Vaughn Zimmerman, and Rachael Kehler.

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“This is about working collaboratively for the future of Boyertown,” said Mark Evans of Barton Partners, project manager. “We want to make sure this plan embraces the borough and its vision for the future.”

Evans presented this timeline of project tasks: discovery and listing - January and February, best practices – March, market research and analysis - March and April, downtown plan alternatives – May, June, July, marketing and promotion - June and July, draft downtown plan – July and August.

The areas listed as assets included: The Colebrookdale Railroad, the State Theatre, the community park, the library, the BBB, and the visual arts businesses such as Tayler Backes, Dancing Tree Creations, and Studio B. Wayfinding signage placement was discussed as a way for visitors to find these local attractions.

Chris Lankenau of Urban Partners addressed the topic of Market opportunities — rental, office, and retail.

“We think rental housing has a lot of opportunity. Places like Boyertown are increasingly popular places to live,” said Lankenau. He added how apartments in downtown Boyertown are limited, however new or rehabbed rental housing appears to be an opportunity.

The study was based on a 1-mile, 3-mile, and 5-mile radius. Lankenau said the 3-mile radius is the “sweet spot” based on spending power. He was not as optimistic about the office market, but thinks there’s opportunity in retail. The study was able to show which markets aren’t already saturated. Food services, clothing, sporting goods, and furniture were listed as appropriate retail categories. One striking find – Lankenau said Boyertown could support 18 new restaurants, sit-down and limited service.

The meeting then segued into community transformation strategies. Graham Copeland of Downtown Dynamics explained the Community coalition approach, an agreement among partnered organizations around common agenda. He encouraged those in attendance to think about the long-term and what they want to achieve.

Various plans were posted around the room, with an option to focus on restaurants or arts and entertainment; attendees were asked to vote on which ones they favored. The planners said that combing both would enhance Boyertown’s status as a regional destination. The vote rendered a mixed response. Evans said they would use the broad framework to move forward.

What’s next?

“The purpose of that meeting was to get community buy-in so we could move forward and take one of those to the next step,” said Adrianne Blank on June 1.

She said right now the goal is to determine what are strategies people are passionate about –restaurants, Historic district, art niche, or all three. The next step is to narrow down some of the ideas and strategies, find partners to make them viable, and hold a community public meeting where everybody is invited.

“There are so many good ideas, but the reality is – is the borough behind them? Is the stakeholder that owns the property going to be on board?”

A steering committee has been meeting since January on this project. There was also nine separate listening sessions held with various groups such as nonprofits, clubs, and others invested in the community. These were held to see what they like see for Boyertown in next five years.

“It’s really a hard concept to narrow down. In our discussions, we’re talking about some really interesting ideas. It’s just a matter of getting everyone on board.”

Blank describes the vision a “working, moving target.” And they’re on a very fast track.

“Usually town visioning projects are a year and a half, on average. We started in January and we’re going to be done by the fall.” Part of that has to do with the fact that Boyertown already has buy-in from businesses and community support, and they’ve been working on these ideas since 2002.

They would like find three or four strategies to move forward with.

“We’ll going to have a public meeting and try to narrow down some of these strategies and see which ones are going to rise to the top so that by August or September, we have a good understanding of which direction to go and who can help us do that.”

The public meeting will be held in July.

Blank said there’s a lot of opportunity within the borough, and it’s about identifying the opportunities and identifying the hurdles. One of the biggest hurdles mentioned was parking. While there is ample parking, the majority is private and then it becomes about encouraging shared use parking at different times. That’s when collaboration and partnerships become important, in order to figure out how to share the space so it increases building occupancy.

“Some of these ideas are pushing the envelope, I think there’s a little push back with it but it’s also part of the growth,” She explained. “We’re going to come out of this with some really tangible strategies that people are excited about.”

When it comes to the making of a destination town — Blank said it takes visionaries, collaboration, and years of working together to find a common strategy.

During the Fourth Friday Art Walk in Boyertown on June 23 from 5-8 p.m., the Building a Better Boyertown office will be open. All of the photos and visions will be posted on the wall for the public. All community members are invited to the office to share feedback about the ideas.

“It’s great to talk about, but to really make it happen — that’s the challenge, that’s the fun part.”

About the Author

Rebecca Blanchard

Rebecca won't hesitate to tell you that she has enjoyed writing throughout her entire life. Born and raised in Pennsylvania, she graduated from the professional writing program of Kutztown University in 2012. Rebecca joined Berks-Mont Newspapers in July of 2012 as editor of The Boyertown Area Times following her internship with the newspaper. In addition to writing, she enjoys traveling and cooking gluten-free foods. Reach the author at rblanchard@berksmontnews.com or follow Rebecca on Twitter: @boyertowntimes.