By Ron Leonardi | Original Article
Jan. 25, 2018
The public got its first look Wednesday night at Embrace Millcreek.
Plans for shaping the future of Millcreek Township’s development and investment during the next decade began in 2016 with about 2,000 township residents participating in two online surveys, four neighborhood forums and numerous stakeholder meetings.
The public got its first look Wednesday night of Embrace Millcreek, the township’s new comprehensive plan, during an open house at McDowell Intermediate High School.
Millcreek Township Supervisor John Morgan and consultants presented plan findings in a PowerPoint presentation, through posters and informal small-group discussions to an audience of about 75.
“Millcreek has been kind of riding high for a while, but we are seeing signs of kind of plateauing, we are seeing some early signs of decline and we’re educating folks so they understand that we do need to invest a little more, we do need to a little more so we don’t become complacent and slide down to where we kind of see the city of Erie,″ Morgan said. “Their plan is Erie Refocused, because they need to fix things. Ours is Embrace Millcreek so we can keep it good.″
The comprehensive plan aims to focus on actions that will attract residents and businesses, improve the township’s population and tax base, and measures that will improve main township corridors, stave off blight, and improve infrastructure and road maintenance.
The plan’s main focus areas are:
- Creating a distinctive and high quality gateway district to Presque Isle.
- Strengthening neighborhood investment.
- Position commercial corridors for adaptation and redevelopment.
- Support business development.
- Promote strong and sustainable stewardship of township infrastructure.
“They’re all interconnected — you can’t do one without the other,″ Morgan said. “If you don’t have great housing stock, you’re not going to have great businesses looking to invest in your community, and if you don’t have vibrant corridors and amenities, you’re not going to have good housing stock. It really is all tied together.″
Under the plan, improving the gateway district to Presque Isle would involve strengthening the West Eighth Street commercial corridor to Presque Isle, elevating the level of streetscape finishes along Peninsula Drive, and coordinating with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to improve pedestrian and bike access to Presque Isle State Park.
“A more unique Gateway to Presque Isle district is going to take some heavy lifting on our part to go after state legislators, federal legislators, state agencies,″ Morgan said. “Those are big investments that we’re going to have to justify and find other sources for.″
A focus area of strengthening neighborhood investment deals with stopping blight before it spreads, how the township can prevent properties from becoming threats to neighborhood stability, and how Millcreek can promote “aging in place″ and healthy levels of property improvement.
“We’re seeing some early sings of residential blight, but we also see that in some major corridors,″ Morgan said. “Folks can drive down Eighth Street, 12th Street and 26th Street and see these larger retail or business structures that look tired or vacant. We need to strategize on how to revitalize those areas if that’s the front door of your community. If you drive down a main street and it doesn’t look good, you’re probably not going to invest there.″
The plan also focuses on how Millcreek can invest more in infrastructure, catch up on road maintenance and keep the share of township roads in good shape.
A 2017 evaluation of Millcreek road conditions showed that about one-third of the mileage — 69 miles — maintained by the township is in acceptable condition and about two-thirds of mileage — 148 miles — maintained by the township shows some level of distress, according to the plan.
In supporting business development, the plan examines whether the township should pursue development of office/industrial park space on airport property to address regional shortage of readily available space, whether Millcreek should support adaptive reuse of marginal industrial and commercial properties, and whether the township should be a leading voice on regional economic strategy.
Virginia-based consulting group CZB is helping to develop the Millcreek Township plan.
Another open house outlining Embrace Millcreek project plans is scheduled for Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. at J.S. Wilson Middle School.
“We’re in the second phase of this project,″ Morgan said. “That is explaining to residents what the data shows us, explain what the realities are, so folks understand there are problems we need to address, educating folks on some of the bigger-picture solutions we think to implement to solve those problems, and helping them understand what those trade-offs might be. This is where we need folks to let us know if they’re really buying into it. After these meetings and after some of the online input with any of these things, if we get a strong sense that they don’t want it, it’s not going to go in the plan.″
Officials expect to finish a draft plan in May.