Harrisburg’s Northern Gateway

The Furlow Building is being restored.  Midtown Harrisburg has evolved past “taking root” and into “sustained growth”.  The 1500 Project is moving full speed ahead.  Even the old glass factory on Third is being restored.  Downtown’s entertainment district is as strong as it was ten years ago.  And although the infamous Southern Gateway project is dead (probably because that’s a terrible name), the Northern Gateway project is about to begin.

Someone forgot to tell the city that we’re teetering on the verge of financial disaster.

See this? We can do better.

An article in PennLive yesterday described the project in detail.  Put simply, it calls for the complete reconstruction of the area from Seventh & Reily to Cameron & Maclay, by way of Seventh St.  Seventh will be widened from two to four lanes, new streetlamps will be installed, new sidewalks will be poured, and a lot of behind-the-scenes infrastructure improvement will take place.

All of which will create a major city artery that empties out onto Reily Street — the gateway to HACC and midtown.  It’s likely that this will also drive up land value within the corridor, which will in turn spark development and reinvestment.

Take that gas station on the corner of Seventh & Maclay.  The corridor improvements could cause that land value to skyrocket, allowing the owner to take out a loan to finance construction of a better convenience store … or even a deli.

Take the vacant lots between Sixth & Seventh in the corridor.  Those owned by the city can be doled out for high-density development, and those owned by individuals will likely jump up substantially in value.

What if that entire neighborhood became a vibrant, desirable place to live?  Before you laugh, recall that just over a decade ago nobody considered downtown or midtown to be prime parts of the city.

The benefits of the project are simply too great to list.  And it’s likely that within a few years — especially with Vartan’s three developments along neighboring Sixth Street, to say nothing of the new federal courthouse — the improvements will spread to the surrounding neighborhoods.

The Northern Gateway will help anchor a consistent, modern redevelopment initiative across the entire length of the city.  And once the project is completed, it will very likely improve conditions on Sixth over the same stretch.

Since most of the affected area is currently populated by vacant lots, it’s hard to envision a scenario where this doesn’t have a positive impact on the city.

Coupled with ongoing midtown redevelopment and downtown’s still-strong entertainment district, I can’t help but wonder:  Could this help reverse Harrisburg’s decades-old population decline?

To put that another way, are we witnessing the beginnings of the rebirth of our city?