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Mifflin Co. leaders talk on Lewistown sidewalk projects

Downtown walkability to be improved

LEWISTOWN — Mifflin County leaders are working on a series of projects to make Lewistown a more attractive place to live and work.

Downtown Lewistown Inc.’s Board of Directors discussed some steps it has taken to move forward with projects to improve the walkability of downtown during its quarterly meeting held Wednesday.

Executive Director Jim Zubler discussed a Downtown Connector Project, which starts on Juniata Street. The two-block project addresses code improvements to the sidewalk on the north elevation of West Water Street.

“We’re identifying where there are sidewalks that are out of code, curbs that need to be replaced (and) trench drains that need to be put in,” said Zubler, who added that the borough will gain three parking spaces when the project is complete.

The project stretches to Ansal Apartments and ties into the county’s Streetscape Project.

It is expected to go out to bid in late December.

“We’re looking at this to be up to code and to be a connection that people feel comfortable walking on in all seasons,” Zubler said.

Board member Mark Colussy, who also serves as the Mifflin County planning director, added that a plan to connect Victory Park to Rec Park and the Stone Arch Bridge and connect Rec Park to Kish Park will create opportunities to connect key assets of the community.

“When you’re installing pedestrian and bicycle-friendly facilities in the downtown, it benefits everyone because we have such a concentration of day workers in the borough that you encourage these people to go to one of these parks…they can get a cup of coffee in the morning before they go to work then take a 30 minute walk on the trail. If they want to take a lunch break, they can go to any of these parks or grab a sandwich on their way back to work. It pumps money into the local economy,” Colussy said. “The key piece is encouraging those interconnections between recreation, employment and commerce.”

Colussy said an important piece moving forward is securing appropriate signage.

“There are a lot of feasibility studies that lead to potential projects, but none of them talk about potential signage. I’m currently advocating that we promote signage.”

A Pennsylvania Department of Transportation study that includes improvements to Helen Street and state Route 103 near Lewistown Junction Station could create opportunities for people from out of town to visit downtown merchants and even the local parks, Colussy said.

Looking to next spring, Colussy said Lewistown Borough will repave West Fourth and Juniata streets.

“A piece of that project is they will put a pedestrian flashing light at the Valero station, across the street from the parking lot at Victory Park,” he said. “They’re also going to improve the triangle next to Sheetz and the triangle on Market Street. The key piece is if you can safely have three places to cross Juniata Street to get from the train station to the river side of town, it further enhances opportunities that people can safely take a morning, afternoon or evening hike on the trail.”

Colussy said he envisions signage to direct people safely through Victory Park, to Market Street, across the Main Street bridge and to the Fish Creek Walk, across the pedestrian foot bridge to Rec Park.

“That’s really a high-end asset that we can encourage lots of people from out of the area to utilize,” he said. “From a marketing standpoint, communities this size don’t usually have that scalable of a pedestrian trail network so that’s really a great asset. If we’re getting people outdoors and active then also you’re encouraging people to frequent our merchants.”

Also during the meeting, Zubler announced that DLI received national accreditation by Main Street America for the seventh year in a row.

DLI is among 22 Pennsylvania downtowns earning national accredited status, the top tier of recognition.

According to a news release from DLI, the exclusive designation signifies a demonstrated commitment to comprehensive community revitalization and a proven track record of successfully applying the Main Street Approach.

“We are proud to recognize our Pennsylvania communities as part of a national movement of over 860 nationally Accredited Main Street America programs. These programs exemplify the hard work and dedication of various stakeholders, community leaders, organizational staff, and volunteers who are committed to making their communities better places for us now, and in years to come,” Julie Fitzpatrick executive director of the Pennsylvania Downtown Center said in the news release. “We are working to revitalize our older authentic communities to build vibrant and thriving economies where people choose to live and businesses choose to invest.

Since the early 1980’s, Pennsylvania’s Main Street program participants have provided on-the-ground support for local businesses, particularly those in smaller and more rural communities — attracting more than $1.7 billion in public and private investment, creating over 24,000 net new jobs and over 7,200 net new businesses.

In 2019, over 1,000 net new jobs and over 100 net new businesses were created, along with over $7.3 million in public investment, leveraging over $17.9 million in private investment in our Pennsylvania Main Streets.

Accredited Main Street programs are evaluated annually by their coordinating program.

Established in 1998, Downtown Lewistown Inc. is a charitable non-profit 501c (3) organization funded in part by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, with support from the Borough of Lewistown, Derry and Granville Townships, Mifflin County, MCIDC, and local business, industry, individuals, and private property owners.

For more information regarding investment opportunities in Downtown Lewistown, call Jim Zubler, Executive Director at the Downtown Lewistown, Inc. office, at 152 East Market Street Suite 109, phone 248-9606, email jim@downtownlewistown.com.

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