The Department of Community and Economic Development
Line up projects, especially along the river, and apply for funding.
That was the message Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) Secretary Dennis Davin delivered to officials in Warren during a Monday visit.
Davin and DCED Northwest Regional Director Kim Thomas toured some project areas in Warren, starting at the Warren Municipal Building, then making stops at Struthers Library Theatre, the PNC Bank Building, Faith Inn, and Breeze Point landing.
All of those have state dollars in them. The theater and Faith Inn both utilized the Neighborhood Assistance Program (NAP) tax credit. Other projects have utilized the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RCAP).
“The Neighborhood Assistance Program… it’s the best program that we have,” Davin said.
He said he would like to expand to the program. “We’re trying to double the state-wide credit to $36 million from $18 million.”
At the theater, DCED credits were used in the recent capital campaign that funded the new roof, new seats, elevator, new marquee, Library Room stair lift, railing, sidewalks, and ramps.
Executive Director Wendy McCain said she has applied for another round of grants — DCED Keystone Communities Program Grant — “to restore the corner of SLT to create a meeting place for theatre goers, neighbors and visitors of Warren — before, during and after performances.”
That facility was used last week for the first time as a service area for beer and wine as the theater used its event liquor license.
At the PNC building, Duane Vicini, president of the Education Consortium of the Upper Allegheny and chief of staff of the Northern Pennsylvania Regional College, and Jim Decker, president and CEO of the Warren County Chamber of Business and Industry, showed Davin the progress on renovations to the building.
The next stop was Faith Inn.
Bob Raible, Economic Opportunities Council executive director, and Lyn Pryor, community development director, talked to Davin about the facility, and how DCED dollars have been used there.
“We use it every year,” Raible said of NAP. The credit brought in the dollars that were used to update the front of the building and instill a lift, and to buy two new boilers for the 12-apartment building.
EOC also used NAP at its new Beech Street duplex.
Davin said Warren is delivering on the projects for which it is receiving state funding. “Absolutely,” he said. “And it doesn’t stop there. This is working.”
Warren has advantages over some other communities. “You have a lot of people that are working here in the town,” he said. And there are already a number of buildings that have been refurbished, enhancing the appearance of the city and improving its ability to attract newcomers.
He suggested a strong focus on a particular area of the downtown.
Davin asked Freenock if there are trails along the river.
She said there are some plans and some ideas.
Davin encouraged her to finalize some plans and send them along to his department.
“I always look for things that are amenities,” he said. “This river is your biggest amenity.”
Creating access to that amenity is what the department is looking for.
“That is what brings young people,” Davin said.
He added that WiFi and broadband access are other key drivers for bringing young people to a community and that Gov. Tom Wolf has created an office of broadband development.
“That’s been a real challenge” especially north of I-80, he said.