CRP students tour redevelopment and revitalization initiatives in Wilkes-Barre, PA
As Wilkes-Barre continues to experience significant redevelopment and revitalization, it serves as an important model for creative strategic planning and coalition building among government agencies, civic organizations and businesses.
Graduate student Mari Radford arranged for the Community and Regional Planning students to travel to Wilkes-Barre to learn firsthand about it.
On Saturday, November 8, 2008, the CRP students spent the day with Jim Brozena, P.E., Executive Director of the Luzerne County Flood Protection Authority; Larry Newman, Vice President of Economic and Community Development of the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Business and Industry, and a trained urban planner and historic preservationist; Tim Gilmore, President of Wilkes University; and Frank Pasquini, retired Vice President of Kings College, and a leader in the Downtown Business Association.
Situated along the banks of the Susquehanna River and in the Wyoming Valley, Wilkes-Barre has been susceptible to flooding. Since the 1970s, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been developing an extensive levee system that could protect the city from flooding, but at the cost of making the river inaccessible and virtually invisible to the residents of Wilkes-Barre.
Recognizing that the city need not sacrifice its relationship to the river, the Luzerne County Flood Protection Authority has been renovating the levees and developing a riverfront park.
Jim Brozena led the CRP students on a tour of the eastern bank of the development site, known as the River Common. Scheduled to open in Spring 2009, the River Common will feature two levee portal openings with sliding floodgates, a state-of-the-art lighting system, a 750-seat outdoor amphitheater wired for video simulcast, a landing and landscaped gardens and walkways. Visitors will have wireless internet access.
The River Common will be a destination unto itself and serve as an artery to the cultural and recreational facilities in Luzerne County. The western bank will feature a parking lot, a boat launch and possibly boathouses.
Wilkes-Barre is experiencing renewed growth and development beyond the riverfront. Larry Newman led the CRP students through the downtown area to show how strategic planning, programs and investments by the Chamber of Commerce, the universities and businesses are bringing economic redevelopment to the post-industrial city.