The Mechanicsburg Borough Council unanimously endorsed a Renaissance Mechanicsburg Concept Plan on Tuesday night as presented by representatives of the Downtown Mechanicsburg Partnership.
For the past year, the DMP’s design committee has worked with BartonPartners and HRG Engineers to create a revitalization draft of Mechanicsburg’s downtown using feedback from borough residents, business owners, civic leaders and others.
“It’s important to preserve our community’s history and heritage while looking forward to the future,” said Jason Manges, chair of the DMP’s design committee.
Manges, a realtor in the Mechanicsburg area, cited ongoing revitalization efforts in Carlisle, Lemoyne, Camp Hill and Steelton as examples. “We believe that Mechanicsburg is the next community for this. The DMP is ready to spearhead this,” he said.
Manges and DMP president and design committee project manager Jayne Drake said planners envision the overall project as being completed in three phases: an overall streetscape, a plaza area at Railroad Avenue and the Mechanicsburg Museum Association headquarters, and Heritage Square at the intersection of Main and Market streets.
Drake said Cumberland County is Pennsylvania’s fastest growing county, with home prices in Mechanicsburg rising a full 7 percent just last year. “We want to be right here and ready in Mechanicsburg for the new people coming in,” she said.
In June 2017, Drake and an HRG representative told borough council members that the borough’s downtown area needs cosmetic improvements such as trees and lighting and the town square should be converted into a “gathering area.” The downtown also needs a larger variety of merchants, restaurants and other venues and more parking areas to spark economic development.
Other elements under consideration include pedestrian lights, trees, bicycle racks, and a 4-foot paver border between sidewalks and curbs. Safety and traffic calming measures also are needed for the downtown area, planners said.
“It is a plan, but not the plan,” Drake told borough council members on Tuesday. “It’s a concept study. We’re urging you to offer your guidance to us through this study. Your endorsement doesn’t mean that you’re putting your stamp tonight on all the details.”
Expand the plan
Council member Gary Weber said he believed the plan’s downtown area, currently limited to Main Street from Frederick to Arch streets, should be expanded to Main Street from Walnut to York streets to include the historic 1801 Frankenberger Tavern and planned Frankenberger Gardens. Mechanicsburg’s annual Jubilee Day festival also is held within that span.
“The borough’s entranceway needs to be addressed,” Weber said.
Drake concurred, calling the tavern the current “gem” of the downtown area.
Organizers said they seek no borough funding for the project. Instead, they plan to rely on fundraising and grant-writing efforts to finance the revitalization. Although it is too early to arrive at an exact cost for the overall endeavor, Manges estimated a total price of around $2 million. Drake said organizers are working with a professional fundraising firm on a pro bono basis for ideas, but it is difficult at this point to establish a timeframe for the overall project.
“We will move this (revitalization) forward as soon as we can get funding to establish a final plan and construction drawings for each phase,” Drake said.