New Cumberland “Design For Better” Initiative Among Projects Awarded Funding

Earlier this month, Governor Tom Wolf announced the approval of 11 projects through the Municipal Assistance Program (MAP) to assist local governments in nine counties with planning for zoning and updating of comprehensive plans.

“This funding helps municipalities and local governments update their essential plans to ensure they are more efficient and better prepared for the future,” said Gov. Wolf. “The commonwealth remains committed to ensuring our communities have the resources they need to complete important planning projects like these for the betterment of their communities and their residents.”

The Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) recently approved $471,248 in funding for 11 municipal projects throughout the state. Funding from MAP assists local governments to plan for and efficiently implement municipal projects available in three groups of activities: shared services, community planning, and floodplain management.

Among the approved projects is the revitalization vision for New Cumberland developed by the AIA Pennsylvania “Design for Better” team that is now on track to be brought to life with $40,000 in funding. The initiative, commenced back in 2018, was honored with an American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) “Power of A (association)” Gold Award, the association industry’s highest honor, for community support and engagement. Recap the initiative with the documentary short posted above.

Kirk Stoner, Director of Planning for Cumberland County, noted how the architect’s range of skillsets was integral to laying the groundwork to spark the revitalization of the borough’s business district.

“Successful revitalization efforts mesh public input, market feasibility, and aesthetic enhancements to establish a vision of ‘what could be’ for a given community. AIA Pennsylvania’s urban design charrette for New Cumberland’s downtown provides the professional expertise required to transform public aspirations into real, visual improvements in the future. The design charrette engages residents and architects in a collaborative process aimed at creating the future as both parties work together to determine what the future should be and then cooperatively design it. The resulting product has immediate public buy-in and professional integrity. Residents are actively engaged in the design process and know that the final product represents their wishes and desires. Likewise, concepts created during the planning process have the professional seal of approval, ensuring that what the community has imagined is feasible and not just a wish.”

The funding will give the New Cumberland Borough the backing to build upon its 2019 Revitalization Strategy and proactively plan for the growth of the downtown district and community. The process will include community engagement, assess and explore trends, key issues and new opportunities (such as recent access to the river) that will influence the borough’s land use, transportation, housing, development and economic success, as well as an opportunity to articulate a shared, community-wide vision. The result will be a roadmap with a long-range implementation phasing plan that establishes the community identity and preserves the historic character; creates safe pedestrian and biking connections to the downtown between significant amenities, residential districts, and regional connections; identifies projects and areas for redevelopment, expansion and enhancement; and strategies/obstacles for business attraction. The focus area is 5th Street to Front Street along Bridge Street, and to the River to the east and Reno Avenue to the west and opportunity properties.

The AIA Pennsylvania Design for Better project team was spearheaded on the ground by leadership and staff with Chris Dawson Architect (CDA) circa 2018/2019:

  • Chris Dawson, AIA
  • Andrey Grove
  • Darius Hopkins
  • Rob Jones, Assoc. AIA
  • Sara Sweeney
  • James White, Assoc. AIA 

Additional support was provided by AIA Pennsylvania Strategic Council leaders, Design/Blueprint for Better champions, and member volunteers:

  • Robert (Bob) Kelly, FAIA, IDSA
  • Jeff Pastva, AIA
  • Thomas Bank, AIA
  • Jeff Goldstein, FAIA
  • Elysia Mikkelsen, AIA
  • Marc Stauffer, AIA