Board considering aesthetics

According to Warren City Planning Commission Chairman Don Nelson, “We have a pristine entrance to the north of the city. When you come in on the east side, not so much.”

Plans are in the works to change that.

City Planner Dave Hildebrand laid out the Pennsylvania Avenue Gateway Renaissance plan to the Planning Commission on Tuesday morning.

He explained that when entities such as Warren Business District Coalition and GRO-Warren were in place, “The whole emphasis during those time periods was actually the downtown. When we were working with the facade grants, there was a stronger emphasis on downtown and not so much on the Pa. Ave. and Franklin (St.) area.”

The focus of this effort would start at that area because there is a commercial element to it. Hildebrand said that the area used to be considered East Warren and was not incorporated into the Borough of Warren in the late 1800s.

To bring improvement to the area, and continuing east to the Park Avenue area, Hildebrand proposed a joint effort of the Planning Commission, Redevelopment Authority, Blighted Property Committee as well as the Street Landscape Committee.

“The whole emphasis is to see what could be done as a whole to help out,” said Hildebrand. He said one of the least expensive options would be for the Street Landscape Committee to work on installing trees along Pennsylvania Avenue in that area. “The thought would be to put trees behind the sidewalk,” he said, “(to) get some greenery out there to pull away from the hard look of the asphalt and the concrete.”

He also proposed a role from the Planning Commission.

The Redevelopment Authority has funding for facade work and Hildebrand proposed having “the Planning Commission pick up a piece of the facade money” and “look at entities that could utilize the money.”

“The other side of that is dealing with the RDA and Blighted,” he said.

He proposed exploring a USDA 504 program which can provide loan and grant money for the repair of homes. “When you come through that corridor coming west, there’s concerns with some of the housing,” he said.

The City Arborist would also play a role.

The area is “a real desert when it comes to trees,” Hildebrand said. “The arborist has identified some tree locations.”

“I am so pleased to see you bring this at our table,” Chairman Don Nelson said. “There is so much opportunity here.”

Speaking of the entrance improvements in Youngsville and others along the I-86 corridor in New York, Committee member Bob Dilks said that such improvements are “an immediate, positive impact. It anchors the town.”