Date: October 5 – 7, 2009
Location: Pottstown, Pennsylvania
Sponsors: Borough of Pottstown; the Hill School; the Pottstown Area Health & Wellness Foundation; Pottstown Area Industrial Development, Inc.; the Pottstown Memorial Medical Center; the Montgomery County Community College; and the Pottstown School District
Chair: Tom Murphy
Subject Area: Economic Growth and Development, Neighborhood Revitalization
The Panel’s Assignment
A sponsor team consisting of the borough of Pottstown, the Hill School, the Pottstown Area Health & Wellness Foundation, Pottstown Area Industrial Development, Inc., the Pottstown Memorial Medical Center, the Montgomery County Community College, and the Pottstown School District asked the Urban Land Institute (ULI) to conduct a one-and-a-half-day Advisory Services panel to provide advice and suggestions to improve and maintain the economic health of the community.
The assignment included researching issues, preparing briefing materials, a formal presentation from the sponsor, a tour of the town, and interviews and meetings with more than 40 to 50 stakeholders. The panel deliberated on these issues, and this report is the result of those deliberations.
With a population of approximately 22,000, the borough of Pottstown is located in the extreme southwestern portion of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. Like other older industrial areas in eastern Pennsylvania, the borough has been experiencing a significant decline in its manufacturing base over the past 30 years. ULI had previously conducted two advisory panels in Pottstown in 1976 and in 1989; many of the recommendations from those panels have been implemented.
Considered an exurb of the Philadelphia metropolitan area, the borough is characterized by a formidable, but aging, stock of single-family residences and rowhouses surrounding a mid– 20th century main street. Major employers in Pottstown include the borough government, the borough’s school system, the Montgomery County Community College, the aforementioned hospital, and the county’s social service delivery offices. Steel manufacturing and fabrication plants, now underutilized, are located adjacent to downtown and the Schuylkill River. Only a fraction of the borough’s employment remains in heavy industry. The sites of former large manufacturers—specifically Bethlehem Steel—are underoccupied and being used for a variety of light and heavy manufacturing uses.
New economic development, downtown revitalization, underutilization of existing industrial space, and crime are key challenges for the community.