Prior to the designation of West Reading as a Main Street, businesses were leaving, they were not coming in. Now there’s a waiting list of people wanting to open their business on Penn Avenue.
One of my proudest accomplishments in my political history was when I was mayor of West Reading and being very instrumental in the creation of the West Reading Main Street and Elm Street programs. We were the first in Berks County. We put together a 10-point program for the entire community called the 2020 plan and one of those was the designated Main Street.
Over the last almost 20 years it’s really proven to be a very great investment. It has improved property values, created numerous jobs, created so many new business startups, and it’s really the go-to place in Berks County for events and activities.
Whenever somebody comes to town they say, “What is there to do?” and it’s “Let’s go to downtown West Reading!” Elm Street was basically an offshoot of Elm Street, the same kind of program with the state where you could designate a neighborhood. So we took what was the oldest neighborhood in West Reading that was built at the turn of the century 1900s and designated it as an Elm Street district.
A lot of facade improvements, a lot of streetlights, sidewalks, curbs, things that may not seem too sexy to people, but really has invigorated that area of the community as well as Main Street. The Fall Festival, the Arts on the Avenue, were just in their formative stages. The Farmers Market that’s on Sunday I was instrumental in creating that.
Why we did that on a Sunday was because many of the merchants were closed on a Sunday and we wanted to try to induce them to stay open to attract visitors and new people to downtown Main Street. Now quite honestly they’re all open on Sunday because there’s business to be done.
There’s a lot of blood, sweat, and tears by a lot of people. Elected officials, appointed officials, merchants especially, and the residents of West Reading all came together in a real cooperative fashion. That was really kind of the highlight of my 24 years in West Reading was to see how, today, West Reading has flourished under the new Main Street program.
I’m County Commissioner Kevin Barnhardt this election day I asked for your vote because Experience Matters.