After the exit of PPG Industries and Eljer Plumbingware, Ford City lost its identity of who it is now.
In order to capture the vision that would help the town develop an identity now through the year 2030, a comprehensive plan has been developed.
Emily Brown works as a consultant with 4th Economy Consulting firm of Pittsburgh who help communities plan for the future by considering their economic and development needs. She has been working with the Ford City Planning Commission since June 2018 to create this comprehensive plan.
“We worked with the community to come up with ideas about different sites in town and what can happen on them as well as different infrastructure and housing changes as the vision for the town for the next ten years,” Brown said.
Brown surveyed a total of 462 residents (16% of Ford City’s population) and found common desires that could be woven into the tapestry of the town.
“The people who responded to our survey and came out to give us ideas really focused on the river front as well as the downtown and the former high school property. We looked at ways to incrementally improve those across a ten-year span starting with smaller improvements in the first one-to-three years, then making larger improvements to streetscape and attracting some more development into the town.”
Brown has worked with other municipalities, but said Ford City will retain its uniqueness as it travels to the year 2030.
“Ford City will retain its neighborliness – that small-town feel that people appreciate and love about it. We will have more variety of housing and more things to do for young and old alike,” she said.
There were several key points that Brown discussed:
- Ford City is losing population, but that loss is expected to plateau by 2020.
- Housing vacancy in Ford City is 17% compared to a time when there wasn’t a house or apartment available during the height of its industrial period.
- Population trends that include older households and new younger households indicate a need for smaller, more diverse housing such as apartments.
- Riverfront development should not only include access to the river, but also offer restaurants, jobs, and something for children to do.
- Six regional real estate developers were brought in to tour Ford City and give their opinion of future development.
- Activate downtown with trees, garbage recepticles, arts programming in storefronts, and even sidewalk cafes. A parking study should be done and Council should consider removing anti-bicycling ordinances. Finally, capitalize on the old mural in town and create more murals.
- Coordinate with PennDOT to renovate 5th Avenue and downtown streets. Bury power lines and improve internet quality and availability.
- Coordinate with businesses to conduct destination marking. Offer recreational equipment rentals. Establish vending at borough-owned riverside property, and pop-up bars.
- Until development occurs, the site of the former high school could become a community gathering place in partnership with current owner. It could be used for Farmer’s Market, lawn games such as miniature golf, croquet, or horseshoes, outdoor movie nights, and craft flea markets.
Planning Commission Chairman Andy Tylinski said development of a comprehensive plan was more difficult that he had imagined for the volunteers serving on the Planning Commission.
“When we started to dive in and make things different, better, more relevant, we realized we couldn’t. So we had to reach out to someone who was an expert in the field to actually do (the study). Now it has come to fruition.”
Tylinksi said that rather than being an exact plan on paper with solid deadlines, this plan is “living” or “fluid”, meaning it can be adjusted at any time as opportunity presents itself.”
“If something wasn’t planned until year seven, but we are in year three and able to accomplish it, we don’t have to wait to implement that part of the plan,” he said.
Tylinski and members of the planning commission reminded those in attendance that this is an overview, not a step-by-step instruction of how to build a town.
Commission Secretary Richard Wakefield appealed to those in attendance last night to become involved in creating the “new Ford City”.
“From the beginning, we wanted this to be the people’s vision. We could have had six of us go in a room a write a plan, but we wanted the people to come and tell us first what they want the town to look like in 2030. Now that we have a written vision, we are asking people if they are willing to help make it happen. It’s easy to get a plan, but the hard part is the execution. We have some work to do to move us from where we are today to where the vision tells us we can be in ten years.”
Wakefield encouraged residents and business owners to go to the borough website at fordcityborough.org and read all the details of the comprehensive plan. If someone wants to get involved in a piece of it, they can contact the borough office at 724-763-3081 or come to a planning meeting at the borough office on March 21.