PHLF Main Street Program Expands
By Ethan Raup
Manager, Community Revitalization Programs
The PHLF Main Street revitalization program expanded this spring into Armstrong County with a partnership with the Freeport, Leechburg and Apollo Group (FLAG) and with funding obtained by Sen. Jim Ferlo. PHLF is working with FLAG to submit their state main street application in August. If accepted, FLAG would be the first regional main street program in western Pennsylvania.
Freeport, Leechburg and Apollo are small towns with traditional main street business districts that are within 10 miles of each other along the Kiskimenitas and Allegheny Rivers. Alone, each town is too small to qualify as a state main street. So leaders in these towns decided to join together to pursue the state’s regional main street designation.
PHLF’s work includes staffing FLAG’s Board and its four committees – Promotions, Design, Organization and Economic Restructuring. We are developing an aggressive five year work plan that builds on local assets and addresses challenges head-on. We are also taking early implementation steps wherever possible. That includes a study to explore restoring and returning the former Leechburg Hotel building to its original use.
With direct access to the Kiski River, a picturesque surrounding countryside, abundant trail connections and traditional towns that are still largely intact, the FLAG communities have a real opportunity to develop into a regional destination. The Leechburg Hotel could be key to this effort. And it dovetails nicely with PHLF’s work on the historic main street in Vandergrift, which is just across the Kiski river in Westmoreland County.
The FLAG effort began two years ago with the help of Sen. Ferlo, who has been a strong advocate for FLAG and this revitalization effort. We are optimistic that FLAG will receive its Main Street designation later this year. PHLF anticipates working hand in hand with FLAG in 2009 and beyond to help breathe new life into each town.
With the FLAG communities, PHLF is now active in 8 main street revitalization efforts across southwestern Pennsylvania, including Stowe, Swissvale, Tarentum, Elizabeth and Vandergrift. In each of these towns, PHLF is drawing upon our depth of experience and expertise to find a path forward that we believe will lead to a sustained revitalization.