Schwartz, officials cap project with ribbon-cutting
A freezing morning in January 2011 was on the minds of Lansdale Borough officials and some distinguished visitors July 16, as they stood in a closed section of Lansdale’s Madison Street.
That closure was not for some last-minute construction or repairs though — it was for a ceremonial ribbon cutting ceremony in which the borough thanked U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, D-13, for her help in securing federal funding for the borough’s downtown streetscape project.
“Whatever the weather, we are going to keep working to make sure that we are here to do ribbon cuttings, and more importantly to grow this community in a way that the residents want,” Schwartz said.
“The cooperation between local, state and federal government is what makes it work. It’s having a vision, and then getting it done, so let’s cut that ribbon and then move on to great things for Lansdale,” she said.
Shortly after she was first elected to Congress in 2005, Schwartz told a crowd of sev-eral residents and local business owners, she toured several towns in her district to see how the federal government could help smaller towns and cities develop.
“One of my first visit was to Lansdale, and I walked Main Street, and I have to say it looked a little different in 2005,” she said.
Before she cut a ceremonial ribbon hung in front of two borough public works trucks, Schwartz described how the borough asked for her help, which led to a $2.3 million grant through the federal SAFETEA-LU (Safe Ac-countable Flexible Efficient Transportation Equity Act a Legacy for Users) program to assist with the downtown streetscape project. The pro- ject kicked off with a similar gathering on a chilly morning in January 2011, construction lasted through much of the summer of 2011, and brought new sidewalks, street lights, trees, bike racks and benches to several blocks of Main, Broad and Madison streets. It is a project that Schwartz said serves as a model of cooperation between local, state and federal government along with local businesses.
“It’s looking at sustainability, and recognizing that people want a more walkable community, that small businesses will come in if the infrastructure is there, and that this is something we can do if we have a vision,” she said.
“Yes, I do love Lansdale, and I do talk about Lansdale as a model, not just in Montgomery County, not just to the state, but for the nation, in the way we look at our small towns and cities across the state, and across this nation, and really do development right,” Schwartz said.
Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro said county lawmakers appreciate “the extraordinary leadership here in Lansdale. You guys really are awesome, and you’re awesome because you’re visionaries you understood what was needed here in Lansdale in order to make it even better, and you went out and found it,” he said.
The county has helped the borough by allocating $1.7 million in open space funding, nearly $3 million in revitalization grants, and by locating a — county employee who directs residents to health-related services — in Lansdale, and council President Matt West thanked both on behalf of the borough.
“This very Lansdale of which you speak so fondly is deeply grateful, not only for the sentiment but also your willingness to put action into words. For that, we thank you,” West said, adding that Schwartz frequently tells him “how much she loves Lansdale, and we’re going to hold her to that.”
Schwartz addressed that hope by saying that if the U.S. Congress writes a transportation bill in the next year, “which we might, there might be fewer dollars, but it’s an opportunity again to bring those federal dollars back to help Lansdale, and to help the other towns across my district — and maybe further.”
Councilman Denton Burnell chaired borough council’s public works committee while the project was underway, and described how the project has increased turnout in downtown events, prompted transitoriented development projects such as the upcoming Madison Parking Lot development project and helped bring to life the borough’s branding platform of “Life in Motion.”
“All of these additions have visible results, making Lansdale Borough an attractive place to live and work, while providing a healthy, more vibrant community. ‘Life in Motion’ is our brand’s tagline, and this project is evidence of that, and look at what it jumpstarted,” Burnell said.
Borough Manager Timi Kirchner thanked the numerous consultants and borough staff who helped guide the streetscape project from idea to reality, and she and West presented gift bags to Shapiro and Schwartz in recognition of their help.
Schwartz “made a call to this borough one day, offering to help with federal dollars for a project that would have vitalization of this borough,” she said.
“Multimillion-dollar grants do not come around every day, and the borough of Lansdale is grateful to Congresswoman Schwartz for recognizing the potential in Lansdale, and aiding in ‘paving the way’ for continued development within the borough,” Kirchner said.
U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, D-13, cuts a ceremonial ribbon to complete the federally-funded Lansdale Streetscape Project on Madison Street in Lansdale July 16. Also attending are, from left, borough council members Dan Dunigan and Rick DiGregorio, Borough Manager Timi Kirchner, Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro, Lansdale council President Matt West, Councilman Jack Hansen, Mayor Andy Szekely, Councilman Denton Burnell and council Vice President Mary Fuller.