August 31, 2018 — As I wrote in this space a few weeks ago, it’s the little things that add up to revitalize a city. And just the other day, another one of those “little things” that will have a big impact happened.
With little fanfare, the City of Reading opened a police substation at the corner of Fifth and Penn streets. It’s in the heart of the downtown business district, the focus of our efforts to revitalize the city.
Reading Police Chief Andres Dominguez took me on a “tour” of the new substation, located in the old bank building. The tour doesn’t take long as the substation is only two rooms and a bathroom, but it gives a visible public safety presence that visitors and residents alike will find reassuring.
The truth is that downtown is, and always has been, a pretty safe place to work and visit. Still, we know that people find the visible presence of a police officer reassuring and the new substation will allow officers to spend more time on Penn Street. It’s one more small addition to the growing sense that downtown Reading is making a comeback.
For years, we’ve said that revitalizing downtown will take more than just the Community Foundation making grants. With the leadership of Randy Peers at the Greater Reading Chamber Alliance, we now have the business community providing real leadership for the effort. Aaron Gantz, a Reading native, has been named Executive Director of Downtown Revitalization and is coordinating the business community’s support for the Alliance.
City government is now a fully-engaged partner. Under the leadership of Mayor Wally Scott, we’ve seen little things – little things that only the city can do – start to happen. The water fountains at Fifth and Penn got fixed. The streetlights were repainted and, now, a small police presence is visible at the center of a downtown that is seeing an increase in activity.
Downtown Reading is our region’s biggest economic growth opportunity. With Mayor Scott leading the public sector efforts, Randy Peers bringing the business community along, and the Community Foundation’s continued investment of philanthropic dollars, we can make that opportunity pay big dividends for our region.
Kevin K. Murphy, President
Berks County Community Foundation