Lansdale’s primary election is a week away and with it a bit of reflection is helpful. Looking back at the past five years a lot of good things have happened in Lansdale. Since 2009 the following new events have added to Lansdale’s already busy calendar:
- The Lansdale Farmers’ Market began in 2009 providing residents and visitors alike with with fresh fruits, vegetables and other items as well as a community gathering place.
- First Fridays began under the North Penn Community Network in 2009 and then was taken over by Discover Lansdale in 2011. This event provides a nice surge of people into downtown once a month.
- Lansdale’s first ever Oktoberfest began in 2009 raising over $15,000 for the Lansdale Library.
- The hugely successful Lansdale Craft Beer Festival began in 2010 raising over $45,000 for local charities.
- Molly Maguires Saint Paddy’s Day One Miler benefiting Manna on Main Street.
- Founders’ Day began in 2011.
And since 2009, the following businesses have also come into town making Lansdale a destination once again, thus helping existing businesses thrive:
- Molly Maguires Irish Pub and Restaurant opened their second location in Lansdale in 2010 after they helped revitalize Phoenixville in 2005.
- Montella’s Sports Bar opened in 2010 after a full renovation of the historic Sir Philip Fox Hotel.
- Virago Bakery opened in 2010 ushering in Lansdale’s first all natural, gluten free and vegan bakery.
- Water: Elemental Arts and Crafts opened in the Dresher Arcade in 2011 marking Lansdale’s first quality art gallery.
- Round Guys Brewery, Lansdale’s first and only brewery, opened in 2012.
- Tabora Cafe opened their second location next to Railroad Plaza welcoming SEPTA passengers in 2012.
- Shell Fish Sue, Lansdale’s first seafood restaurant, opened in 2012.
The common thread through all these new events and businesses opening in Lansdale is that they are all the result of GRASSROOTS ingenuity and small business toil which have made a REAL and TANGIBLE improvement in Lansdale. This is what residents and visitors refer to when they say Lansdale is turning a corner or that Lansdale is the next Phoenixville or Ambler.
Unfortunately, some members of Council, our Administration and members of the Economic Development Committee have instead embraced a centralized, top-down approach that has included a hurried hiring of a business consultant, Delta Development, for $40,000. Mr. Dunigan, Mr. Strahm and Ms. Fuller all said that not hiring this consultant would “hold up” development in Lansdale or result in “analysis paralysis”. In fact, this consultant has arranged only one or two meetings in the past year with the result of NO new businesses in town and NO reports to the Economic Development Committee.
Additional emphasis and money has been placed and spent on branding and wayfinding. Does anyone go to Ambler, Phoenixville or Doylestown because of their brand? No. The Administration also says we need to spend $4 million on the Borough Hall building because if “we don’t invest in ourselves, no one else will”. Does anyone go to Ambler, Phoenixville or Doylestown for their Borough Halls? No. Yet another example of a top-down, centralized approach that only expands bureaucracy.
Lastly, the current administration and some Council members feel that if we hire enough consultants and spend another $4 million on the Arts Center it will be a success. With any successful arts venue, the demand always comes first from the arts organizations ORGANICALLY. Then as the arts organization gains the respect and trust of its patrons, a home is found. The Administration’s approach is backwards. As I have said in the past, the current discussion focuses on the building and not on the arts, where it should be for success.
This is why I support Lansdale Borough Council candidates who also realize that Lansdale’s REAL success has not been from a centralized, top-down “spend our way” to revitalization, but rather a GRASSROOTS, COMMON SENSE approach that enables a true, long-lasting, sustainable rebirth to occur.