Pa. economic development leaders tour Erie's state-funded projects
ERIE, Pa. - More than $80 million worth of state-funded projects have been issued in the City of Erie during Gov. Tom Wolf's first term, according to the Pennsylvania Dept. of Community and Economic Development. So far, that investment is looking good to Rick Vilello, the department's Deputy Secretary of Community Affairs.
“There's a lot happening in the core (of Erie) right now, but it's spreading out to all the neighborhoods,” Vilello said following his two-hour of the city Friday morning.
Local leaders led Vilello and other state officials made nearly a dozen stops at local parks, schools, wherever that money is being used.
“I think they have come away with a better idea of what we're trying to accomplish in the city, how all the groups are pulling together,” said Chris Groner, City of Erie director of economic and community development.
Many of the grants have come through the Pennsylvania DCED’s Neighborhood Assistance Program and Keystone Opportunities Program. The partnerships aid the city's comprehensive and strategic plans, and supplement more than a half-billion dollars of private investment in the downtown corridor through ongoing construction projects by Erie Insurance and UPMC Hamot.
The biggest goal, Vilello said, is to make sure those plans, and that funding, don't overlap each other.
“My role is to help the implementation of those plans, to make the vision a reality,” he added.
But at a lot on W. 19th St. near Chestnut St., what you see there is nothing and that's the point. This is part of a state-funded blight removal project operated by the Sisters of St. Joseph Neighborhood network. Their goal is to turn this vacant lot into a community green space, according to Executive Director Heather Caspar.
“They are really game-changing amounts,” Caspar said of the state grants. “There were trees growing out of the building, it was just choked with vines.”
Vilello calls Erie an example of revitalization for the state. It’s a promising sign for both grassroots, and government agencies as several projects move forward at once.
See the $80 million in action
You can find the full list of DCED, PennDOT and other state-funded projects issued since 2015 here.