The American Planning Association announced yesterday the designation of Broadway, the main street of Jim Thorpe's historic district, as one of 10 Great Streets for 2013.
Each year during National Community Planning Month, APA's Great Places in America program names 30 exemplary streets, neighborhoods and public spaces to highlight the role planning and planners play in adding value to communities, including fostering economic growth and jobs.
The award was announced outside the Dimmick Memorial Library. Elissa Garofalo, president of the Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor and the Main Street manager in Jim Thorpe at the time of its turnaround noted, "We are here to celebrate the more recent history of Jim Thorpe. This is where the turnabout started, at the Dimmick Memorial Library. In 1979, just after a comprehensive planning study that helped launch the revitalization of Jim Thorpe occurred, there was a horrific fire at this spot.
"When we talked about where we should have today's ceremony, there was no question that it should be here. That's because the decision was made, not by somebody from outside the area, but by the people who lived here. They made the decision to preserve this building.
"Today the American Planning Association is honoring Broadway as one of the 10 Great Streets of America," she continued. "That means that the two or three blocks that compose Broadway, from the courthouse to the opera house, have been singled out because of a unique combination of a beautiful natural setting, good livability, preservation activity, and good community planning over the last 30 years."
The APA award is a national recognition with places and streets that are being singled out from as far away as Hawaii.
"I think it is more than just building tourism," Garofalo said, "It is a seal of approval by the professionals who make this their living planning and revitalizing communities."
The award was presented by Cindy Campbell, a community planner with the Department of Community and Economic Development and a member of the American Planning Association Pennsylvania - Northeast section.
"We are presenting an award from the American Planning Association, Great Places in America - Great Streets Program. It is presented to the borough of Jim Thorpe for their work on Broadway, land-use planning, flood projects, and preservation.
"This is an amazing place," Campbell said.
She has been involved with the funding of many of Jim Thorpe's revitalization programs over the pass 30 years, including the Main Street program which hired Garofalo in 1981.
"It never ceases to amaze me that when I drive into Jim Thorpe, the wonderful people and community that is here."
"We got a really good start with an excellent plan and revitalization program 30 years ago," said Jim Thorpe Borough President Betsy Ahner. "Since then it is a testament to the commitment of resident and property owners that has brought us to where we are today."
"In the late 1970s, the County Planning Commission engaged Venturi Scott Brown and Associates, an internationally known architect and planner to produce a plan for Jim Thorpe," Garofalo explained. "All the bones were here-the streets, the buildings, the mountains, but there had been a divestment in the community. Not many people were living here there were only a handful of businesses.
"They took a look at it and asked how can this place come back? It was at that point that they look at the surrounding area, the parks, the river, the mountains, and the architecture. That is when the redevelopment started going in that direction, that they should preserve what they have as opposed to taking it down and building anew," she continued.
"The fact that we are holding this gathering at this library is noting that it was very much of a turning point. In 1979, the library nearly burned down. The decision was made to rebuild it. At that point they could have very well taken the whole thing down, made it into a parking lot and built it someplace else. Instead they made the decision to take the architectural elements from the back of the building to salvage the front of the building, and renew it."
APA singled out Broadway for its eclectic mix of architecture, the Swiss-Alps-like scenic beauty of the Lehigh River Valley that surrounds the street, measures by the town to stop the street from regularly flooding, and efforts by residents and local businesses to strengthen the town's tourist economy.
"Visitors have been drawn to Jim Thorpe's scenic beauty since the late 19th Century," said APA Chief Executive Officer Paul Farmer. "Remarkably, the unique Victorian mansions along Broadway Street's 'Millionaires Row' still remain, faithfully restored by the current owners who recognize the value and importance of their homes to the town's tourist-based economy."
The nine other APA 2013 Great Streets are: North and South Walnut Street, Milford, Del.; Palafox Street, Pensacola, Fla.; Kalakaua Avenue, Honolulu, Hawaii; Bridge Street, Las Vegas, N.M.; C Street, Virginia City, Nev.; Market Street, Corning, N.Y.; Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia; The Strand, Galveston, Texas; and West Beverley Street, Staunton, Va.
The American Planning Association is an independent, not-for-profit educational organization that provides leadership in the development of vital communities.