LEWISTOWN - Downtown Lewistown Inc. is in the process of transitioning into a new program through the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.
The board is optimistic about the partnership with the Mifflin County Industrial Development Corporation and the cooperative economic development strategy under what will be know as the Improvement Corporation of Mifflin County.
DLI is looking to be the "poster child" for the new Keystone Communities program, which replaces Elm Street and Main Street funding revenue for revitalization projects. If awarded Keystone Communities status, significant revenue would be available to continue with revitalization projects, more than was available under the Elm Street program.
Pennsylvania Downtown Center Executive Director Bill Fontana said the Elm Street program officially ends June 30 and DLI needs to make some policy decisions between now and then about what their strategy will be.
"You really need to take some time to think about strategic planning," Fontana said.
One of things DLI needs to determine is how wide to cast their net, geographically speaking.
Fontana said some communities may continue to keep their particular focus more narrow, essentially extending the Elm Street or Main Street programs under what will become Keystone Communities Elm Street or Keystone Communities Main Street.
In past discussions among board members, the consensus seems to be leaning toward a more regional approach for Keystone Communities designation, essentially looking at development opportunities throughout the county.
As the board sets out to refocus their efforts and gain Keystone Communities status, they are also continuing with the continued development of ongoing projects.
The first phase of the Fountain Square Park project, located at the Five Points intersection, is almost complete. Ameron Construction has been the contractor for the project thus far. Additional work was provided by Bushmen Landscaping, the Juniata Valley Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau and Heller Hoenstine Funeral Home Inc.
DLI President Jon Zimmerman said the project has been well received and has attracted additional supporters.
At this point, there is some talk of incorporating a mural on the walls bordering the rear of the park.
Fontana said when planning for a mural it's important that it make a statement on where the community is going, not just the history of a community.
DLI's Chair of the Image and Identity Committee, Rhonda Walters, said she managed to secure the same quote on the fountain itself that had been given to the board more than two years ago, however there was a stipulated deadline.
The board has to make a 30 percent deposit of the total cost of the fountain, which is $23,995. DLI has until Dec. 15 to make the deposit on the fountain, which will take three to four months to build.
The board approved authorization for fundraising efforts for the fountain and Zimmerman said some in the community have already given verbal commitments to help with the funding.
As is the case with most DLI meetings, Zimmerman passionately reminded the board how far this community has come in the past decade or so and rattled off a list of completed projects and anchor businesses that have helped the area grow.
"Not a week goes by that I don't talk to someone looking to invest in the area ... we are in an important corridor," Zimmerman said of the proximity to Harrisburg and State College.
There are several projects that DLI has either directly or indirectly been part of over the years, here are just a few:
Montgomery Avenue extension project
Kish River Walk
ComPASS center along Montgomery Avenue
Mann Edge redevelopment
43 commercial and neighborhood rehabilitation projects, primarily in the Five Points East End Neighborhood and Downtown Lewistown.