East Side upgrade project advances

After first hearing of the proposal last month, City of Warren administration and the city Planning Commission continue to examine the potential options for a Gateway Renaissance project on Pennsylvania Avenue E.

Looking at work done in the past on this issue, City Planner David Hildebrand proposed a new Residential Limited Business (RLB) district that would be “more user friendly for the community.”

The focus of the east side effort a joint project including the Planning Commission, Redevelopment Authority and Street Landscape Committee is to enhance and beautify the area from the Conewango Creek to the Glade Bridge on Pennsylvania Avenue E.

The first step will be seeing what is already there.

“The staff could work on more of a land parcel study of that whole stretch through there,” said Hildebrand. He said there are “some slopes and other problems in there” that have resulted in “a lot of houses (that) have gradually been removed by fires or blighted or demolished.”

The RLB zone “could better facilitate what is on Pennsylvania Avenue” by expanding what would be permitted in the area. “Maybe there are areas out there that are more office than commercial,” he said. “I think the timing is good to look at this type of zone. What are some of the best ways to enhance development over there?”

Studying the parcels would allow the city “to get a look at property changes out there,” said Hildebrand, expanding that the corridor could be broken into three or four segments for study purposes.

Commission Chairman Don Nelson asked why the RLB was not adopted in the past when explored. Hildebrand said “(city) council did not want to take it further (and) management at the time did not either.” He said that they have since taken components of the RLB district and “updated them gradually on our own.” The proposed district would be a hybrid of commercial and residential. “C2 (commercial) picks up a lot of what is in RLB,” said Hildebrand.

Commission member Greg Fraser asked if the techniques used to enhance the entrance to town on Market Street could be applied on the east side.

Hildebrand said the entrance from the north has been enhanced and maintained by permitting offices in Residential-3 districts but requiring that “architecture had to stay the same. Those houses have continued to maintain a residential look while a mixed” use. The “residential exterior with offices have been put together in such a way (that you) wouldn’t necessarily think of that as a heavy duty professional office.”

Fraser asked if such an approach is too late for the east side. “I would say it probably is on that,” said Hildebrand.

“I like the idea of the segmented approach (to) analyze sections separately to see if something is salvageable,” said Fraser, whose time on the commission ends in advance of taking a seat on Warren City Council next month.