Community Development Frequently Asked Questions

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How do I open a business in the City of Reading?

Your first step to opening your own business is to visit or call the zoning office to make an appointment to meeting with one of our Zoning Administrators. Detailed information on the steps to start a business and a variety of resources can be also be found on our website.


What does Reading have to offer my business and why should I move or expand my business to Reading?

The advantages to moving your business to Reading are clear; there are 100 million people who have easy access to your business. The City is only 55 miles from Philadelphia, 125 miles from New York and 145 miles from Washington D.C. The City has a skilled and diverse work force. You’ll find that doing business in the City will be most cost efficient as we have many sites and buildings to match your needs. For additional information, contact the Reading Redevelopment Authority at 610-655-6025 or visit their website.


What are the incentives?

To view the incentives that are offered in the City of Reading, click here.


How do I apply for a small business loan?

Information on how to apply for a small business loan can be found on our Business Financing Programs webpage.


What is going on in Reading in terms of economic development?

Information on Economic Development in the Reading area can be found on the Greater Reading Economic Partnership website.


Where can I find a site for my business?

Please click here.


How/where do I get zoning information?

Anyone who is interested in zoning information is encouraged to visit our office in City Hall, room 3-03.


How do I apply for a business license?

You must visit the Citizens Service Center in City Hall, room 1-27 to apply for you new business license.


How do I purchase an Our City Reading (OCR)/Boscov House?

You may contact an OCR representative by calling 610-370-3990 and someone will be able to assist you with obtaining an application.


Does this office provide assistance to private landlords?

At this time, the City does not have any programs that can be offered to private landlords.


How do I purchase a home if I am a low to moderate income family?

You can contact the following organizations for assistance.

Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS) at 610-372-8433

Habitat For Humanity at 610-373-3439


How do I get a home repair loan?

Call Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS) at 610-372-8433


How many historic districts are located within the City of Reading?

There five historic districts in the City of Reading: Callowhill, Prince, Centre Park, Penn’s Common and the Queen Anne District.


Are all of the City’s historic districts regulated?

No. Only the Callowhill, Prince, Centre Park and Penn’s Common Historic Districts are locally regulated by the Reading Board of Historical Architectural Review (HARB). The Queen Anne Historic District is Reading’s only National Register District and changes to structures located within its boundaries are not subject to review by the HARB.


What is the difference between a National Register Historic District and a locally regulated district?

A National Register Historic District is a district that has been designated by the National Park Service as worthy of preservation and therefore has been placed in the National Register of Historic Places, a federal list of historically significant resources. National Register districts may or may not be locally regulated but are afforded some protection by municipality oversight when federal funds are used in a project that may have a negative effect on historic resources. A locally regulated historic district is a district established by a municipality that may be listed in or is eligible to the National Register of Historic Places. A locally regulated district is governed and protected by the Historic District Ordinance which establishes a review board (HARB) to review changes to buildings. Listing in the National Register of Historic Places does not necessarily protect buildings within a historic district from being altered or demolished whereas the historical integrity of structures located within a local historic district are provided protection through the Historic District Ordinance


What are the rules and regulations for properties located within a historic district?

If a property is located within one of Reading’s four local historic districts, all proposed exterior changes that can be seen from a public right of way require review by the HARB. The Preservation Officer has been authorized to approve certain in kind building improvements and painting of exterior surfaces. Certain proposed improvements may require review by City Council as per the Historic District Ordinance. The first step in the HARB process is to complete a Certificate of Appropriateness application.


What is a Certificate of Appropriateness and how do I obtain one?

A Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) is required for all new construction and exterior alterations to structures in a historic district that can be seen from a public right of way, including those visible from public streets and alleys. The application must be completed to include all specifications for proposed exterior work (submit paint color samples, material samples, and detailed drawings illustrating finished dimensions for signs, new construction and alterations). Apply to the Historic Preservation Officer for a COA prior to obtaining any required building permits. A COA application is available from the City’s Historic Preservation Office, City Hall, 815 Washington Street, Room 3-03, Reading, PA, 19601and on the website.


When does the HARB hold its meetings?

The HARB meets every third Tuesday of the month and COA applications must be submitted to the Preservation Officer ten working days before the regularly scheduled meeting. The meetings are open to the public


Do I need to attend the HARB meeting?

Attendance is not mandatory but is strongly recommended. If a property owner or person representing the project is not in attendance and therefore cannot answer pertinent questions, the HARB may table its review until the owner can attend and more information on the project can be obtained.


How long does the HARB approval process take?

The HARB will review a project at the regular monthly meeting and in most cases will issue approval for a COA at the hearing. Once the COA is issued, a building permit may be obtained.

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