Foundation For The Reading Pagoda Fund


The fund supports the restoration of the Reading Pagoda.

By MICHELLE LYNCH | mlynch@readingeagle.com | Reading Eagle PUBLISHED: November 14, 2023 at 2:15 p.m. | UPDATED: November 14, 2023 at 2:18 p.m. Original story click here.

The future of Reading’s Pagoda will depend on support from the greater Reading community.

The public and private support is needed to raise the approximately $10 million it will cost to repair and restore the Pagoda and surrounding walls, stairs and walkways on Mount Penn, city Councilwoman Marcia Goodman-Hinnershitz said.

Goodman-Hinnershitz and council President Donna Reed serve as council representatives to the Foundation for the Reading Pagoda, which was established in 2014 to assist in the preservation, enhancement and maximum community use of the property.

They and fellow foundation member Mike Reinert spoke at a recent virtual forum focusing on the Pagoda.

The hourlong event was hosted by Berks Alliance, an organization that works to advance community development in Berks County.

The object was to update the public on the status of the iconic building, which has been closed to the public since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

City officials say it will remain closed until upgrades to the building can be made.

Arguably the city’s best-known landmark, the Pagoda on Mount Penn recently underwent a complete condition assessment. STV Inc., a Douglassville engineering service, examined all aspects of the 115-year-old building, including its structural elements, finishes and mechanicals.

The city is committed to restoring the Asian-inspired building and stabilizing and improving the associated structures, Reed and Goodman-Hinnershitz said.

City Council introduced an ordinance Monday that will allocate remaining balance of about
$32 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding for public projects. This includes a set-aside of $3 million for repairs to the Pagoda.

But that is just a start.

Repairing and stabilizing the walls, walkways and stairs surrounding the Pagoda is expected to cost the city an additional $7.55 million, said Jim Boisseau of JMT Engineering, which completed an engineering study of the built environment surrounding the landmark. Raising the approximat

ely $10 million needed for the building and grounds will take a larger community effort, Goodman-Hinnershitz said.

To get things started, she said, the Foundation for the Reading Pagoda has put $100,000 into an account set up through the Berks Community Foundation.

Goodman-Hinnershitz said $36,000 of the $100,000 was raised through a Pennies for the Pagoda campaign years ago. The campaign encouraged children across the county to donate coins in classroom penny jars.

“We want to revitalize that same kind of concept,” the councilwoman said, “because we know from the grassroots level, from our children and families through large donors, we have the potential to raise that $10 million.”

Goodman-Hinnershitz said there must be ongoing dialogue with and involvement of community partners and stakeholders.

The Pagoda foundation also is looking to partner with state and county government on the project, she said. And because the building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, she noted, there could be some opportunities for grant funding.

But the community investment is going to be important, she stressed.

Community input also is important in deciding how best to use the property after the repairs are completed.

Reinert said a recent survey provided some insights.

Of the 160 people who responded, 117 indicated they live in Berks County. More than half of the respondents said they visit the Pagoda at least once a year and 85% said they have taken out-of-town guests to the site.

“So they’re not just visiting the Pagoda,” Reinert said. “They’re bringing people with them to share their enthusiasm.”

Another question, he said, asked about the top three activities at the Pagoda.

Looking at the view and taking photographs were the top answers, Reinert said, followed by walking the grounds and going inside.

Over half the respondents said they spent at least 30 to 45 minutes at the site, and another 40 people said they spent at least an hour or more.

“So, you know a lot of people do want to get there and invite people and stay there and enjoy it,” he said.

The survey also asked people to provide ideas for what they would like to see inside the Pagoda.

The responses included museum-type exhibits, a display detailing the history of the Pagoda and expanded opportunities for refreshments.

Concerts, festivals, car shows, bicycle races and cultural events on the property also were suggested, Reinert said, along with the ability to rent rooms for meetings and special events.

“And yeah, somebody suggested zip lines,” he said. “I’m not sure about that one. I’m not sure if it goes up or over to Neversink Mountain.”

That idea might not be practical, he said, but the input shows people in Berks and beyond are enthusiastic about the Pagoda and its possibilities.

“All of us have to be part of this,” Goodman-Hinnershitz said, “because the tipping point right now is if we don’t do the work that’s needed, the Pagoda will be damned.”

To contribute to the Pagoda restoration fund visit bccf.fcsuite.com/erp/donate/create/fund?funit_id=2881.

Current Funding Opportunities

Description

Deadline & Cycle

Region Served

Interest

Field of Interest Fund

Foundation for the Reading Pagoda Fund

Foundation for the Reading Pagoda Fund supports the restoration of the Reading Pagoda.

Region Served

Berks County, City of Reading

Interest

Neighborhoods and Economic Development

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