APA PA Chapter News: June

The Latest News from PA Chapter of APA…

One of the main reasons individuals become involved in planning, whether professionally or as volunteers, is that they love places, with all of their unique history, characteristics, and people.  Pennsylvania is blessed with a wide range of interesting and historic communities, and the state’s fascinating landscapes are celebrated in the chapter’s Great Places Program.  Read about this program, its founder, and a few great places in this great state. Enjoy!

The next Webinar Wednesday, The Evolution of Aerial Imagery and AI Insight is scheduled for July 7, 2021 from 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM. The field of aerial imagery has exploded in the last two decades. Technology and advances in gathering data have made aerial images better, cheaper, and more accessible to a wide range of users. Today aerial imagery is used in a number of diverse sectors including engineering, construction, transportation, energy, state and local governments and many more. In this webinar we will explore the roots of aerial imagery, how it is used and where it is going in the future. The deadline to register is June 6.

If you are interested in sponsoring a Webinar Wednesday session or have a session for Webinar Wednesday, please contact us. Send your request to info@planningpa.org

Annual Conference
The 2021 APA PA Annual Conference, Planning for an Uncertain Future, will be held IN-PERSON on October 17-19, 2021 at the Sheraton Pittsburgh Hotel at Station Square. Conference announcement will be available later this summer. Here is a tentative conference schedule.

You can book your hotel room. The chapter only has a certain number of rooms in our block and once it’s full, IT’S FULL so don’t wait…book now.

We invite you to support the conference by sponsoring, exhibiting or advertising. The conference provides a unique and effective opportunity to showcase your work and capabilities to planning professionals and policy makers from across the Commonwealth. It’s also one of the ways to support planning in Pennsylvania by providing valuable networking, education, and development for planners. 

Community Planning Assistance Program Steering Committee
The APA PA Board is looking for volunteers to serve on the Community Planning Assistance Program Steering Committee. For more information please contact Amy McKinney (724-656-2193).

Opportunities for Giving
Each year the Chapter offers a scholarship to support individuals seeking funds for academic degree programs, internships, and professional development activities.  If anyone would like to contribute to the Chapter’s Scholarship fund, donations can be made here. We accept all major credit cards, or you can send a check. Please make your check payable to “PA Chapter of APA Scholarship Fund” and mail it to P.O. Box 4680, Harrisburg PA 17111.

Great Places, Great People

Behind every great place is at least one great person. In the case of APA PA’s Great Places in Pennsylvania program, it’s Pam Shellenberger. We were recently able to sit down with Pam, Chief of the Long Range Planning Division for the York County Planning Commission, and talk about her commitment to recognizing Great Places in PA.

Pam has volunteered with APA PA and its Central Section for many years and loves to travel; her interest in Great Places began when she learned about North Carolina’s state program modeled on APA’s Great Places. Her interest and initiative led in 2014 to Pennsylvania becoming one of the first states to recognize its own Great Places.

Since then, 38 neighborhoods, streets, greenways, public spaces, and transformations have been recognized in every part of Pennsylvania. PA’s program is notable because customized categories rotate from year to year, encouraging recognition of every form of great place. Pam challenges us all to think about the places that we enjoy and value and consider nominating them for recognition. The application process is simple and straightforward and remember, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Pam plans to visit The Strip District, a 2014 Great Neighborhood, while she’s in Pittsburgh for the APA PA Annual Conference this fall and would love to explore the Arboretum at Penn State, a 2020 Great Public Space. Current and past winners are recognized on APA PA’s website: you can choose your own adventure!

West Chester Revisited 

In 2014, the inaugural year of the PA Great Places program, downtown West Chester was recognized as a great neighborhood. This recognition noted that the borough’s site improvements, such as new sidewalks, parking garages, bike racks/lockers, solar trash/recycling cans, and flower planters helped to revitalize the downtown and resulted in much success. In 2014, the downtown was thriving with a multitude of restaurants, shops, banks, governmental offices, and professional services. Dozens of downtown community events attracted thousands to the downtown and created vibrancy in both the daytime and evening hours. A Business Improvement District, guided by the Borough’s Downtown Plan, Comprehensive Historic Preservation Plan, and Comprehensive Plan, continues to work diligently to maintain and improve the accessibility, walkability, and attractiveness of downtown.

So, what has happened since 2014? Has West Chester remained a great place in Pennsylvania? The answer is a resounding yes, and West Chester has not rested on its earlier laurels. Since 2014, the borough has seen a continued restaurant renaissance, welcomed new cultural facilities, and required new development to be compatible with the town’s existing character.

In 2017, the Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center opened in an old armory near West Chester’s downtown commercial district. This center features theater, live music, film, and educational programs.




In late 2020/early 2021, a new mixed use office and retail building, known as 44 West, opened in the heart of the downtown, which had always lacked a public park and gathering plan. That is no longer the case, since 44 West features a public park with a dynamic fountain, street trees, and benches.




Finally, West Chester worked closely with its businesses during the pandemic to expand outdoor dining and keep its commercial vibrancy. This worked successfully, and the borough is now moving forward on making some of the temporary changes permanent.

To learn more about West Chester, go to: https://www.downtownwestchester.com/

Jim Thorpe Parking Analysis and Complete Streets Evaluation

Nestled in the breathtaking Lehigh Gorge, the borough of Jim Thorpe, originally named Mauch Chunk, was a company town founded and built by the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company in 1791. Today, Jim Thorpe is a year-round, four-season destination offering a plethora of tourism and visitor activities including hiking on the Delaware and Lehigh Trail, whitewater rafting on the Lehigh River, and passenger rail excursions on the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway. Jim Thorpe also boasts a variety of restaurants and shops in old Victorian buildings and mansions. The two-block section of Broadway from U.S. Route 209 to the Mauch Chunk Opera House has been designated by the American Planning Association as one of the Great Places in America in the Great Streets category.

As a result of the booming tourism, Jim Thorpe has been experiencing a growing problem of accommodating adequate parking in the downtown area for residents, visitors, private retail shops and county government activity. In addition, the downtown has visitors using a variety of modes including vehicles, bicycles, and walking, as well as passenger train traffic.

In 2018, the Northeastern Pennsylvania Metropolitan Planning Organization (NEPA MPO) secured funding on behalf of Jim Thorpe to initiate the Jim Thorpe Parking Analysis and Complete Streets Evaluation. Completed in June 2020, the plan identifies short and mid-range recommendations to minimize conflicts between modes, maximize parking facilities, and accommodate efficient movement of pedestrians, vehicles and bicyclists, safely and efficiently. Some of the recommendations include realigned crosswalks, ADA curb ramps, and new sidewalks. Jim Thorpe is currently applying for grant funding to implement the recommendations in the plan. To read the Jim Thorpe Parking Analysis and Complete Streets Evaluation, click here. To learn more about Jim Thorpe, visit the Jim Thorpe Tourism Agency website.

APA PA Originality and Innovation Award Winner

In 2019, the Bucks County Planning Commission (BCPC) won a PA APA Originality and Innovation Award for developing their Bucks County Maps and Data Portal. This portal was created to share the County Commissioners’ initiatives and planning projects completed by the BCPC staff. Some of the initiatives include:

  • Open Space and Agricultural Land Preservation,
  • Household Hazardous Waste and Recycling,
  • Community Planning,
  • Transportation Planning, and
  • Trails Planning.

This portal also serves as a central hub for collaborative work being done by other county departments and affiliated agencies. These collaborations have resulted in web pages and interactive maps dedicated to the opioid epidemic, prescription medication collection, public transportation, and election polling sites. The district attorney’s office has used the portal to create maps showing the locations of addiction treatment providers, Naloxone pick-up locations, and where overdose deaths occurred in the last 12 months.

Using commercially available software from Esri (ARC GIS Online) and Hyland (ShareBase), the BCPC staff created the open data portal as a resource for both the public and county agencies. The staff has found the web portal an indispensable tool in conducting land development reviews and developing land use plans for constituent municipalities. It has also decreased phone calls related to requests for floodplain and recycling information.  

Find out more at: https://dataportal-bucksgis.opendata.arcgis.com/