Don’t miss out on downtown delights
Warren’s central downtown is glorious. It emits beauty and restfulness.
It is welcoming. Who wouldn’t want to stop and linger? It has a “come join me” appeal.
It is a far cry from our 1960 introduction to Warren when we had to drive through a winding street amid newly produced concrete septic tanks.
A few years back, towns across America started to remake their outdated and depressed inner core. In the early 1990s, Warren obtained grant money and created its Main Street Program. I briefly served on David Winans’ Building Facade Subcommittee. Dave took us on a walking tour espousing a vision citing many of Warren’s current features. Main Street and StreetScape added impetus to changes already occurring.
There are many individuals and companies/foundations who contributed to this revitalization including Jim Zavanski and The Conarro, Sokolski, Betts, and Defrees families to name a few plus community volunteers, city officials/employees, the Warren Foundation, and federal, state, and local tax payers’ monies.
Improvements include the following: WGH upgrade and Crescent Park walkway and the Karen Bonnell Park and Peaceful Garden, Struthers Library Building upgrade, W. P. Library upgrade, Pennsylvania Avenue Walkway and Gazebo and historic signage, Veterans’ Memorial Bridge and military signs, rehabilitation and re-use of National Bank building, municipal buildings upgrade, and housing facilities on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue’s 300 block. All of these changes and others such as the elimination of overhead wires, installing attractive street lighting and trees, coordinated facade appearances, sidewalk tables and benches, the North West Plaza water fountain, colorful containers of flowers, bike/walking trails, suitable signage, new curbing and sidewalks, and attractive flower beds were in large measure the results of federal, state, and/or local governmental money.
Some of the recent upgrade changes in Warren are due to individuals and companies, without benefit of public financing. They “have skin in the game,” namely Kurt and Marisa Smith’s 400 Pennsylvania and Hickory Avenue upgrades – PGE’s Market Street and Second Avenue – Steve Clark’s Pennsylvania Avenue Jamison Hotel – North West Saving Bank Second and Pennsylvania Avenues – the Conewango Club re-build – the Simanowski Family’s New York Deli total rehabilitation of their future home on Pennsylvania Avenue – the United Refining Company on the east side, Gatesway Cleaning and Restoration Pennsylvania Avenue west, Piper VanOrd’s Allegheny Outfitters Clark Street – McDonald’s rebuild, Bent Creek Brewing Company Clark Street, Warren Tire Center’s rebuild, Dr. Gatto’s south side chiropractic building, Plaza Restaurant upgrade, the former Blair Company, McDonald’s new building, and others.
Other actors in these “changes” are the Blighted Property Review Committee and the Redevelopment Authority (RDA). Their re-starting of properties by eliminating eyesores and hazards is the prototype of one step back and two steps forward or “less is more.”
More changes are and maybe coming – the Rotary, maybe a Liberty Street Boat Launch, perhaps the Wendelboe Boutique Hotel on Liberty Street, and something on the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and Liberty Street. Maybe Streetscape will focus on additional city blocks, as more needs to be done. Plus Warren will be acquiring a new City Manager and North West Savings Bank has a new CEO; both individuals could make a significant impact on Warren’s future.
Warren is the epitome of the African adage that “it takes a village to raise a child.” Log on Facebook.com/The WCYN – “Site Highlights local youth activities/needs/sports/jobs.”
Likewise, there are many interesting activities and attractions for the Warren citizens to do for themselves: attend the NWSB sponsored Friday night Music in the Soldiers and Sailors Park at the “JAZzAmphitheater,” check out “The Crossing,” dine in or dine out at one of the various restaurants, stroll the Crescent Park walkway and admire Heritage Point’s Four Flags and Pioneer water fountain or watch a sunset from the Breeze Point Landing, fish or kayak the Allegheny River and Conewango Creek, browse The Allegheny Antiques and The Second Avenue Exchange, patronize the various specialties shops, attend the Struthers Theater productions, watch the toy trains in Stone Consulting Inc.’s window, visit the Warren Historical Society on Fourth Avenue and request a Walking Tour Map, visit the WGH Gift Shop, spend some time in the Library, for those willing to push their comfort zone and are somewhat agile visit Goat Fort on Clark Street, ask for a tour/visit in the downtown churches, walk the Rail to Trail Pathway, consider joining LEADERSHIP WARREN (this is their 25th year) or a city committee or a service club or the Garden Club, walk the scenic Clifford Betts Park exercise path, play some Bocce, watch a softball game or play some pickle ball, walk a Paws along the River Dog, visit the Allegheny Community Center. join the YMCA, attend a school sporting/musical event, visit the Crary Art Gallery showings, patronize Saturdays Farmers Market, etc.
Some changes such as the Mid Town Parking Lot’s kiosk and the street meter On Line Parking Payment System required some learning. Most likely the Roundabout will have a learning curve too.
There have been many changes in Warren during my 60-plus years here. One remaining change on my Warren “Wish List” is the possible enhancement of the Betts Park entry into Warren. Its on Commonwealth land which complicates things.
Dead trees have been removed and the grass gets moved once or twice a year. It is one of the County’s busiest intersections and has huge potential for beauty enhancement as the gateway into our Glorious Downtown.
We are encouraged to stop and linger. Take time to appreciate where we live – smell the beautiful pink roses adorning the city’s flower beds.
Don Scott is a North Warren resident.