Feature Article – Upper Bucks Chamber of Commerce
June 28, 2016
While downtown revitalization efforts may be more prominent now, years of planning and discernment have gone into the Borough’s current economic vitality and investment strategy yielding residents, business owners and borough officials results they can see, touch and feel.
From modernization efforts that never got off the ground in the 1970s to a catastrophic fire in 1988 that wiped out an entire block in the downtown, to national recognition last year for holding the oldest Christmas tree lighting ceremony in the country, Perkasie Borough is a small town, American innovator.
With the goal of creating prosperity, several elements came together. Local leaders built a comprehensive plan with the help of the Bucks County Planning Commission.
“We held public meetings to gather people together, and what people wanted, in Perkasie,” explained Stephen Barth, Perkasie’s Director of Economic Development. Borough officials and planners took on a master plan process in 2013 to gather up a “wish list” from residents and community members.
A winning combination of strategic partnerships, local leadership and input from residents and business owners continues to gain traction and fuel Perkasie’s reclaimed vision.
Maintaining a walk-able downtown business district with community support and patronage, ongoing sustainable economic development and an attractive small town community vibe, build upon Perkasie’s assets.
“Our number one goal was to rebuild the downtown. In order to create dynamic revitalization, you have to bring various groups together,” Barth said.
Stimulating interest from entrepreneurs, new business start-ups and attracting national and international firms, meant considering what makes a town appealing to investors.
For starters, borough officials slashed building and improvement permit fees by 50 percent. The result has been more than 30 new business openings, according to Barth.
The byproduct of lower permit fees has been a ripple effect, which spurred residents to “spruce up” their homes and properties, too. What looks good, feels good.
The American House at Perkasie, located at 7th and Market Streets and the Perkasie Commerce Center, are examples of new buildings resulting from partnerships with investors, Perkasie Town Improvement Association and the Borough. Apartments and retail are mixed-use hallmarks of the new buildings.
Attracting housing development is another gauge of interest in a community, according to Barth. When people are buying homes and locating somewhere, it’s because they see value in the community and want to be part of it.
Major companies such as Free Will Brewing Company attract visitors from out of town, and serves residents in the community.
“Free Will is a major player and their headquarters is right here,” Barth said. “The popularity of microbrews” is a larger national trend, playing out on the local level in downtown Perkasie.
A new [rooftop dining] pub is planned next door to Perkasie Borough Hall, located on West Chestnut Street in an historic building, is viewed as another dining option for visitors to the downtown.
Options to serve Perkasie natives, as well as new residents are part of the overall plan.
“We have about $100 million in new housing developments underway and a plan for a hi-tech center at the Pennridge Airport,” Barth said.
With new residents comes disposable income and with new business development comes investment and validation in the community and its infrastructure.
The Pennridge Airport development on Ridge Road is estimated to have 700,000 square feet of space under roof and is aimed at attracting high tech companies and jobs to the area. “Industrial space, high speed internet and a hotel and conference center” are part of the proposed plan, Barth said.
Barth said leaders are using a holistic approach to creating prosperity, and it’s working.
“We were told we couldn’t accomplish this much in 20 years, and we have done it in two,” Barth said.
For more information on Perkasie Borough log onto www.perkasieborough.org.