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Ideas for Shippensburg revitalization shared

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SHIPPENSBURG – A group of about 60 area residents gathered Monday night to share ideas on downtown revitalization.

The meeting was hosted by the Shippensburg Area Chamber of Commerce and moderated by Mary Kuna, manager of business attractions at the Cumberland Area Economic Development Corporation.

Kuna and chamber Executive Director Scott Brown were both pleased with the turnout and impressed with the suggestions.

“I was impressed with the depth of ideas,” Kuna said. “They were cohesive ideas among a wide (age) range of people … (and) nothing was out of reach with a little time and community effort.”

Brown called the ideas “fantastic.”

“They were very well-rounded with good perspective,” he said. “We got very balanced feedback.”

He said Kuna and her staff will next prepare a report that will be submitted to the Chamber and publicized in order to seek support from residents who wish to serve on a revitalization committee.

Kuna said the committee will have access to assistance from county agencies as it explores ways to move forward with revitalization projects.

Mayor Bruce Hockersmith opened Monday’s meeting by sharing his vision for Shippensburg.

“I had a dream, and the dream was that Shippensburg would take off and grow and grow and grow,” he said. “That dream includes revitalization.”

People were asked to list the reasons they choose to live in Shippensburg. Their answers included good friends and neighbors, the community’s rural atmosphere, safety, the university and potential for growth.

“I came here with my husband a half-century ago, and it was because of the agricultural beauty,” said Rose Dillner.

Kim Capozzi said she and her husband moved to Shippensburg in 2000 after reading an article about the best small towns in America. Shippensburg was in the top 100 at that time, she said.

Since then, Capozzi said the “offerings have gone down.”

“There used to be Edward’s Merchantile, Brown’s (restaurant) and small downtown shops,” she said.

Dillner agreed.

“There are buildings now that are vacant,” Dillner said. “We have some nice stores, but we have too many empty spaces.”

She suggested improved signage to direct shoppers to side-street stores, and affordable rent for business owners.

People said Shippensburg’s location near mountains and farmland, yet also within a few hours’ drive of larger cities, is an important feature. Shippensburg is also unique because of community events like the fair and holiday parades, they said.

When asked what would make them consider moving, their responses included increased crime, lack of culture and arts, and loss of a hometown feel.

Kuna also asked for visions of Shippensburg’s future. Several people said they would like to see completion of the “loop” road that will run east-to-west around Shippensburg, and expansion of the Interstate 81 exit 29 bridge and ramps.

Other suggestions included bike racks, routes for biking and walking, more parking, taxi service, posted bus schedules and a community calendar.

Residents would also to see more upscale restaurants, and recreational activities like a bowling alley, movie theater, ice skating rink and community center with programs and leagues for people of all ages.

Carl Bert said he believes Shippensburg and surrounding municipalities should “come together as a unified entity.”

“When I think of Shippensburg, I think of the Shippensburg area,” he said.

Some residents said Shippensburg should put more emphasis on its history, particularly its role in the French and Indian War.

This article was posted on Cumberlink.com on February 22, 2016.

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