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30 years after fire, Perkasie seeing downtown rebirth

Featured Article: Daily Intelligencer, By Chris Ullery

From baseball to high-tech start-ups, Perkasie officials say the borough’s downtown revitalization is “solidly in the right direction.”

From coffee shops to high-tech start-ups, Perkasie officials say its downtown revitalization plans are “pointed solidly in the right direction.”

It’s been a long time coming.

A fire destroyed most of the downtown area near Seventh and Market streets in 1988, stunting economic expansion for more than 30 years.

Over the last four years, the borough kicked its revitalization efforts into high gear to attract new retail, manufacturing and technology businesses.

perkasie“From expanding the tax base to providing the services and business that folks want in our downtown, I think we’re solidly pointed in the right direction,” Councilman and Chairman of Perkasie’s Economic Development Committee Aaron Clark said recently.

Clark added the redevelopment project has favored “adaptive reuse” of older properties in the borough over pushing to demolish and build from scratch wherever possible.

A former automotive mirror manufacturing plant known as the Delbar property has been vacant for over a decade, but the lot is currently being renovated into an 85-unit apartment building.

The Moser Group of Chalfont and Philadelphia-based C2 Architecture planned to recreate the industrial aesthetic closer to the plant’s original look when it was built in 1914.

Perkasie officials also are looking to tap into the borough’s history to give revitalization a boost.

perkasie-paThere are many buildings throughout the borough, both commercial and residential, that might soon qualify to be included on the National Register of Historic Places.

Scott Bomboy, another borough council member, for the past few years has been researching the potentially hundreds of buildings in the borough that could be prequalified for historic tax credits.

Bomboy said earlier this month that the idea came about while researching the history of buildings within the borough’s Town Center zoning overlay district.

“I researched the existing overlay, and of the 250 buildings, 230 would have been qualified for the register,” Bomboy said.

Going through the necessary steps at the national level is a slow process, and Bomboy said it’s more likely the national register would consider the district next year.

Stephen Barth, an economic revitalization consultant working with the borough for several years, said adding those properties to the register would make renovating existing buildings a more attractive prospect for incoming businesses.

Keeping those older buildings, residential and commercial, have been a priority for Barth and borough officials as they moved forward to rebuild the downtown.

“There’s a lot of pride in the borough, and people love the Perkasie community,” Barth said.

It was the rustic aesthetic at 1 N. Seventh St. that sold Tina Ruston on opening her cafe, Rise and Grind, in the borough.

Ruston wanted to open a cafe for years, but didn’t find a location that worked for her until she found the one in the borough’s downtown.

“There’s something about the cafe and the way that it was built … it was perfect,” Ruston said.

The cafe opened just in time for the borough’s Christmas tree lighting in December, an event that regularly attracts nearly 10,000 people.

“It was amazing, it was so packed in there,” Ruston said earlier this week.

Ruston’s coffee shop is one of over a dozen new restaurants and boutiques to open in the borough during its redevelopment.

Kristin King and her sister-in-law located their yoga and nutritionist business, KM Fitness and Nutrition, in Perkasie because it was one of the most convenient locations for the clients the two had already cultivated.

The two specialize in the basics of fitness and a healthy lifestyle in small classes hosted at the new Moxie on Market Street dance studio at 613 W. Market Street.

“We wanted to be in Perkasie because … it was kind of the middle ground of a lot of areas … it’s a really good fit for us,” King said.

“It’s a big plus for sure,” she said.

On top of a place to work and a place to live, Barth said drawing in big employers means showing them their employees will have things to do.

While the redevelopment looks to keep the historic feel of Perkasie in tact, Barth and the borough are setting their sites on high-tech manufacturing for an industrial park at the outskirts of the borough.

Split between Perkasie and East Rockhill, the Pennridge Airport has been developing a business park on the property that is ultimately planned to include a $70 million industrial park.

Up to six 100,000-square-foot buildings could become the main employment hub bringing thousands of jobs to the area, Barth said this week.

The industries the borough is attracting are about as eclectic as the local services filling the downtown storefronts.

A tech start-up incubator, the Spark Techonology Center, at 700 W. Park Ave. gives high-tech businesses another location option in the borough.

Spark’s 35,000-square-foot facility recently added Electro-Tech Systems (ETS) and EFE Laboratories to its property.

The incubator program focuses on “early stage manufacturing” and companies that make specialized and often highly technical tools.

Later this year, an old brick building next to the borough hall is expected to open its doors and reveal the new three-story pub called The Ram.

It’s one of a handful of projects eyed for redevelopment in 2016, when this news organization first wrote about the borough’s main street project starting in earnest.

With the Ram’s opening just a few months away, the new restaurant might mark the time Perkasie changes from a community rebuilding to a community rebuilt.


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