Workshop looks at creating central downtown
Perkasie is at the brink of a historic moment, said Stephen Barth, Perkasie’s new economic development director, at a workshop at borough hall Wednesday, Feb. 13.
“You have an opportunity that is comparable to what the founding fathers of this community had here,” Barth said at the economic development meeting. “You have the opportunity to create whatever you want.”
What he’s talking about is the comprehensive plan process for the vision of Perkasie years from now — a 100year opportunity, Barth said.
Based on residents’ surveys that had a 32 percent response rate, as well as business surveys that had a 15 percent response rate, the majority of Perkasie community members would like to see a more central downtown area in the borough.
Residents also wanted to maintain a small-town character and mixeduse development, meaning a mixture of residential and commercial units.
David Sebastian of the Bucks County Planning Commission relayed to the crowd of people that Perkasie residents tend to shop for things like groceries, prescriptions, gasoline and hardware within the borough, but they leave the borough for things like clothing, sporting goods, movie theaters and restaurants. This leaves the opportunity for the borough to encourage more growth within Perkasie, as well as urge residents to shop within town.
The planning commission presented several principles, based on case studies of successful areas, to encourage economic development within the borough. Some of these principles included promoting “walkability,” providing a mix of retail tenants that UHflHFW PDUNHW GHPDQGV, VXSSRUWLQJ architectural features that mirror local styles and locating parking to the side or rear of buildings in order to promote uniformity on the streets.
Based on the case studies, the commission also learned that ideally there would be no more than 10 percent non-retail use in the downtown area and no more than 20 percent vacancy.
In addition, some areas’ downtown centers could not thrive because the town centers were too large and sprawling, which may be the case with Perkasie. What works LV D PRUH UHfiQHG WRwQ FHQWHU ERXQGary, Sebastian said.
Barth also unveiled many ideas for how to create more economic development in the borough, includ-
ing Vupporting the 0om and Pop VhopV within the borough inVtead of a national chain like Walmart, aV well aV encouraging young entrepreneurs to set up shop in PerkaVie — a trend Barth haV already Veen occurring in the borough.
“,f everyone buyV from each other — if you try to buy everything you purchaVe within PerkaVie, it’ll make a difference,” Barth Vaid.
The new director said he thought the borough’V own electric department, the borough authority, the BuckV County Planning CommiVVion and the motivated community would all be attractionV for potential inveVtorV.
PreVerving the aeVthetic character of PerkaVie, with its Victorian architecture, waV alVo Vomething that Barth encouraged for the borough.
BuckV County Planning CommiVVion VuggeVted a “Play/ Shop/Dine/8nwind” theme within the borough, with a Vmaller, more refined town center that would be eaVily walkable and potentially two to four blockV long, inVtead of Vix to eight. Parking, too, could be added where it would be more convenient, and there could be more VignV like “Welcome to PerkaVie,” which would grab the intereVt of driverV or passersby.
Barth alVo VuggeVted nurturing greater partnerVhipV with placeV like BuckV County Community College, SellerVville Borough and community bankV. $t the parkV, Barth saw opportunities for bike rentalV, boating and fly fiVhing activitieV.
0any reVidentV Vaid they liked the idea of a downtown center but were concerned about how it would be accompliVhed and whether the development would kick people out of their homeV or create a problem with parking.
Barth maintained that the economic development planV would not create urban Vprawl and would inVtead refine or tighten what iV already the town center district.
“,t’V not expanding it. ,t’V actually Vhrinking it,” Barth said.
-ill Strickland, owner of Frox BoutiTue in PerkaVie, showed interest and support of the downtown planV, Vaying many of her cuVtomerV expreVVed that they would like to have another option in town for VhoeV, for example, and they don’t want to go to a chain like Walmart.
“We need thiV. , need thiV,” Strickland Vaid.
Since the meeting, PerkaVie 2ld Towne $VVociation poVted Vome VketcheV of poVVible development in town to get a reaction from reVidentV on itV Facebook page. 2ne picture was an architect’V Vketch for developing the area where the farmerV market iV currently held on Seventh and 0arket streets. The Vketch had received generally poVitive c o mments and more than 50 “likeV” aV of 0onday afternoon.
2ne commenter wrote, “, love the idea, and , like the deVign of the building, eVpecially the turret — it really helpV to fit in with the town.”
-oe Ferry, vice preVident of PerkaVie 2lde Towne $VVociation, Vaid the page haV Veen more activity in the laVt couple weekV than they’ve had in the laVt three yearV combined.
“,t’V great that people feel paVVionate about the town, and it validateV our belief that now iV the time for an economic develop- ment program,” Ferry wrote in an email. “, don’t look at commentV aV poVitive or negative. People have perVonal feelingV that they are expreVVing. That’V a good thing. We need a full diVcuVVion before Vomething like thiV happenV.”
Luce Architects of Hatboro designed this sketch for the empty lot at Seventh and Market streets where the farmers market resides.