PUNXSUTAWNEY — At a “vision update” meeting this week, Punxsutawney PRIDE showcased transformation sketches of what downtown could be with select improvements.
PRIDE is an organization established to help revitalize Punxsutawney. Its members have spent the last two years working toward their “Vision for Punxsutawney.” During the update meeting, a presentation by a representative from Derck & Edson, a design company that specializes in enhancing campuses and downtowns.
Jim Wenger, a landscape architect with the company, also serves on the Main Street Committee of his hometown, Lititz. He shared his first-hand experience in the reshaping of a town, and the transformation sketches the company had made for some of the possibilities of Punxsutawney’s downtown image.
“Really, think of your downtown as your hospitality center for those coming to visit,” Wenger said.
The presentation began with a review of the perception surveys that had been completed with the help of Julie Fitzpatrick, the executive director of Pennsylvania Downtown Center. According to the surveys, the top scoring perceptions of Punxsutawney are that it is safe, clean, has quality historic architecture, and is green. The worst scoring categories are well maintained buildings, charming, and inviting storefronts. These surveys also gathered demographics of the town and surrounding area. The median age of the town’s residents is in the 40s, which makes the community slightly older than the average in the U.S.
When looking at the spending patterns within a 20-minute driving radius of Punxsutawney, there is $42 million in demand for groceries, but a quarter of that is being spent outside the 20-minute radius.
“One of the things we’re going to challenge is why is that money being spent elsewhere?” Wenger said. “There may be opportunity right there to build a cluster of something in your downtown.”
Fitzpatrick also encouraged use of psychographics to ensure the community’s main population is being targeted. She said some mistakes commonly made when trying to encourage more community based activity is only targeting a small part of the population.
“Those things are not just for folks visiting from outside, but for the core community as well,” Fitzpatrick said.
Adding a public restroom someplace in town was a simple change that Wenger said would make a big difference. He also said having more glass and windows at the street level would make the town look more inviting.
With the transformation sketches, he encouraged adding more green to the streets in places where the cement seemed to take over. He used the McDonalds as an example, suggesting doing something as simples as moving the placement of tree planters.
He said South Findley street would be a good location to close off for a festival of some kind. On North Findley he encouraged creating an outdoor plaza space. There is currently no business in the building next to the space he showed, but his sketch showed it being used as outdoor seating for a possible restaurant.
None of the sketches depicted drastic changes to the streetscape, but instead simple changes that change the entire outlook of the town.