STRATEGIC ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT INITIATIVE
Urban Partners, in cooperation with the University of Pennsylvania’s Fels Center for Government, is providing on-going technical support to the Wyomissing Foundation (TWF) in its efforts to promote economic revitalization in the City of Reading, PA. After several years of decline, Reading has become one of the poorest cities in America, with 40% of its residents living in poverty.
In 2010, the Fels/Urban Partners team shaped a program of targeted investment for TWF and the resulting Strategic Economic Development Initiative has become the Foundation’s primary program effort, utilizing as much as half of its resources annually. The Initiative focuses on demonstrating success in revitalization in three select and compact geographic areas – the Gateway Area of Downtown Reading, the Village of College Heights and the Elm Street area of West Reading — as well as utilizing Fels/Urban Partners technical support to address development issues Citywide.
Since 2011, Urban Partners has provided technical assistance to advance the Initiative and has worked with a Task Force composed of core partners in each area. Participants in these task forces include college presidents and key staff, elected and appointed officials at the local and county level, hospital representatives, directors of area cultural institutions, targeted area business levels and neighborhood representatives. The Task Forces have initiated a variety of activities to address the needs of their target area, including workforce development and post-secondary training; streetscape enhancements; promotion of cultural activities; housing revitalization and howeowner supports, and commercial revitalization. TWF funds for these activities have leveraged significant investment by federal, state, county and local government, other philanthropic support and private business investment.