Reading Redevelopment Authority Minutes 04/18/19

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The Redevelopment Authority of the City of Reading held a meeting at 815 Washington Street, City Hall, 3rd Floor Conference room in the City of Reading, County of Berks, and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, on 18th day of April, 2019.


The meeting was called to order at 5:01p.m. by Mr. Jacobson, Chairman and on roll call, the following were present:


Mr. Melvyn Jacobson, Chairman

Mr. Juan Zabala, Vice-Chairman

Dr. Lazaro Pepen Treasurer/Secretary

Mr. Glenn Steckman Member


Also present were:


Mr. Dennis Witwer, Executive Assistant

Mr. Keith Mooney, Barley, Snyder

Ms. Aaron Gantz, Executive Director, Downtown Revitalization

Mr. Ron Devlin, Reading Eagle

Mr. John Turn, Reading Skateboard Association

Mr. John Hefferon


Upon roll call, Mr. Witwer declared a quorum.


Consent Agenda:


Mr. Steckman made a motion to approve the consent agenda, Dr. Pepen seconded the motion. All members accepted.


Downtown Revitalization:

Ms. Aaron Gantz introduced herself to the board. She is the current Executive Director for Downtown Revitalization. Being in her position for just over a year, she stated that her focus is in economic development and business retention in the city's downtown district. She strives to bring interest back into downtown properties and "reactivating" upper floors of properties along Penn St. Some of these upper floors have been vacant for decades. She stated that these upper floors need to he renovated and should he turned into office space or apartments.


Ms. Gantz advised that she is looking to business for their input and would like very much to have a downtown merchant alliance created to keep open dialogues, ideas and information flowing within the local businesses.


Another priority, Ms. Gantz discussed was future development of vacant land and abandoned empty buildings within the corridor, specifically the corner of 3rd and Washington, a property which is currently owned by the RRA. She told the hoard that this corner has huge possibilities for mixed use development.


The board and Ms. Gantz discussed city business policies and ordinances and the effect they have on new business development and the detriment some of the old, outdated ordinances have on business expansion.


Mr. David Hunter, acting Executive Director for Community Development, stated that he and his staff are currently looking at the ordinances comprehensively so that changes can he made where needed.


Lastly, Ms. Gantz advised the board of the continued interest her organization and other community organizations have in the Greening of Penn Street project, which was spearheaded by the RRA. She stated that the second phase of the plan should move forward, hut questioned who could manage it and move it forward. She asked that the hoard consider herself and her organization for the job.


Mr. Steckman agreed that the project is a priority for the board and would take her offer under advisement.


Mayoral Candidate Invitation:


At this time, Mr. Jacobson advised all present that the RRA had sent each Mayoral candidate an invitation to appear before the hoard to give their stance on the Greening of Penn Street plan and Downtown Revitalization. There were no candidates in attendance. Mr. Jacobson read aloud a statement from one of the democratic candidates, Ms. Annarose Ignara­ Milch.


Reading Skate park project:


At this time, Mr. J.D. Turner of Holistic Skate Shop and member of the Reading Skate Park Association updated the hoard on the progress the group is making with the skate park project down on Parcel 32. He stated that they continue to raise money for the project and that they are now in the engineering selection phase. He stated that they have narrowed down their search to six local engineering companies and plan on signing an MOU with one of the firms in the very near future.


In other news, for the first time publicly, Mr. Turner informed everyone that R.S.A. had been awarded a grant in the amount of $232,000 from Vans Show Company. This national grant is a tremendous win for the project and will help immensely with moving the project forward. In addition to the Vans grant, the R.S.A will be applying for the Tony Hawk Foundation grant and also a D.C.E.D. Greenways, Trails and Recreation Program grant which will be due at the end of May.


Mr. Witwer stated that he and members of the R.S.A., along with the city's Grant Coordinator, Ms. Cindy DeGroote and Councilwoman Sihelnik would be meeting to go over the grant to see what components they will need for submission. A resolution for the RRA will be needed for the grant which Mr. Mooney will draw up for the next monthly meeting.


RRA Property List:


Mr. Zabala asked to table the discussion of the property disposition policy until the next monthly meeting so that he and the board can review the corrections and revisions made by Mr. Mooney.




Mr. Jacobson presented the board with a contract agreement from Niemczyk Creative Media to build and design a new and improved website for the RRA. The contract was in the amount of $1'500. Mr. Steckman made a motion to accept the agreement which should not excited the amount of

$1,500. Dr. Pepen seconded the motion and all members were in favor.

Executive Session:

At this time the board entered into executive session to discuss legal and staff matters.


Regular Session:


The board entered back into regular session.


Mr. Steckman stated that the board should lobby the Mayor to fill the last vacant seat on the board.


There being no further business to be brought before the board, Dr. Pepen made a motion to adjourn the meeting, Mr. Steckman seconded the motion; all members were in favor.


Respectfully submitted by:


Executive Assistant