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Our View: Come to your community’s living room

The City of Lock Haven’s continued investment in new streetscapes downtown is a great long-term investment.

Beautifying streets and sidewalks with plantings has only added to the appeal of the community.

It also builds pride and spirit.

Ultimately, it has and should continue to enhance private investment.

Sure, there are economic struggles in downtown, moreso during this pandemic.

In the age of e-commerce on the internet, it’s challenging to provide all of the products and services local residents want and need in brick and mortar stores anymore.

But it shouldn’t just be about shopping.

We look at downtowns as a community’s living room.

We want it to be neat, well-kept, safe, comfortable and charming.

Brick pavers.

Nice curbs.

Good signage.

Proper crosswalks.

Curb cuts for handicap accessibility.

Tree-lined streets.

These features should and do inspire merchants and landlords alike to keep their buildings looking good.

Main Street was first to get a new streetscape.

Bellefonte Avenue was next.

Now its Church Street’s turn and Lock Haven City Council has executed contracts to start the work.

Crews will begin work on the right side of the street. As work takes place, drivers could encounter flaggers and lane restrictions. At least one lane will remain open to traffic during work hours. Lane restrictions will be lifted when work is not taking place.

Overall work on this project includes excavation, new cement concrete sidewalk, brick sidewalk, curbing, inlet and pipe replacement, paving, and miscellaneous items.

PennDOT will issue updates on this project as necessary. Work is expected to last through November. M and B Services, LLC of Clarion, PA is the contractor on this $1 million project.

The latest streetscape project comes amid a pandemic that really has brought new attention to downtowns.

The city closes a two-block area of Main Street on Friday and Saturdays to allow restaurants to bring their inside seating outside so to adhere to restrictions meant to curb the spread of COVID-19.

It has helped, for sure, but some businesses inside and outside of the closed streets report their sales have declined.

Nick Hawrylchak, owner of the Broken Axe Brew House on Bald Eagle Street – outside of the street closures – this week asked council to do more research into how the closure of Main Street has effected restaurants and businesses outside of that two block section of Main Street.

Council should certainly do that, and with the help of Downtown Lock Haven Inc., the nonprofit merchants group.

Perhaps moving outdoor entertainment to other areas of the city where businesses reside would help?

Perhaps council should allow more outdoor seating at any restaurant or tavern to help more of them?

Allow businesses in the city but outside of the two block area to to display and sell product within the pedestrian mall on a rotating basis?

This is a daunting challenge.

So far as we’re concerned, allowing more outdoor seating is something the city — and other communities in our region — should do during warm-weather months every year.

But going into colder weather, restaurants and taverns will lose their capacity to provide outdoor seating.

Then what, if the pandemic continues?

For everyone, the pandemic presents a moving target: We must all watch what we’re doing and change or improve plans and strategies from week to week.

This all requires collective thought, conversation, ideas and effort.

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