Borough Committee Develops a Plan to Revitalize Collegeville’s Main Street

Collegeville Borough Business Development Committee - Main Street Consultant presentation

The presentation by the Borough Business Development Committee to Collegeville Borough Council on April 3, 2019

NOTE: The Collegeville Borough Council will vote on whether to fund this request at their May 1, Council meeting at 7 p.m. at Borough Hall, 491 E. Main St.

Our Main Street’s Potential

We believe that Collegeville has the potential to create a vibrant business district that could become a regional destination, with a mix of unique retail stores, restaurants, entertainment venues and services.

And a recent survey we conducted this January tells us that our residents want us to do just that. Out of 404 respondents living in the region, 195 lived in Collegeville Borough. And 184, or 94% of those Collegeville residents stated that they would like to see Collegeville Borough invest in business development and in bringing new businesses to Collegeville’s Main St.

Businesses and residents would like to see us attract more restaurants of all types including:

  • BYOB and breweries,
  • coffee shops / cafes,
  • breakfast and lunch eateries,
  • ethnic and culturally diverse restaurants,
  • healthy food restaurants,
  • and delis.

Also, our residents asked for:

  • Reasonably priced fashionable clothing shops
  • Gift shops and galleries
  • New and/or used bookstore
  • Arts and crafts stores
  • Co-working spaces and more

The Borough Business Development Committee would like to work together with Collegeville Borough and Ursinus College to make this happen.

The Borough Committee’s Work

During its first year, the Business Development Committee (BDC):

  • Adopted the Montgomery County Planning Commission’s Collegeville Revitalization Plan as our work plan;
  • Surveyed Collegeville building and business owners;
  • Identified our business district’s aesthetic, assets and strengths;
  • Inventoried available spaces, and
  • Began initial work in recruiting businesses to our Main Street area.

Although much work was done in 2018, none of us on the committee has the background, experience, contacts, and time to focus on the crucial next steps needed to position Collegeville as a sought-after business destination. We need the help of someone with vision who has experience in attracting new businesses and developers, and who can help us successfully find funding to transform our business district.

The BDC invited a number of individuals with economic development experience to speak at our meetings in 2018. The committee was very impressed with Steve Barth of Barth Consulting Group, and would like to hire him to help us implement our Collegeville Revitalization plan.

Collegeville Borough Business Development Committee - Barth Consulting CommunitiesBarth has successfully revitalized business districts in Perkasie, Hatboro and New Britain.

Barth’s specific skills are his:

  • Vision for what our business district can be
  • Ability to successfully execute the BDC’s work plan,
  • Track record of boots-on-the-ground recruitment of businesses, and
  • Connections with developers.

Request for Strategic Investment

In order to move the work of the BDC forward, the committee requested funding of $25,000 at the April 3 Council meeting to hire Barth for one year.

If the Council approves our request, we are fortunate that Ursinus College will match that amount with another $25,000 in order to move our business recruitment program into high gear.

”The reputation and image of our community is influenced by the condition of our business district. We see this money as a strategic investment that over time will result in civic pride and an increase in homeowners’ property values and taxes for the Borough.”

— Mayor Aidsand Wright-Riggins

Why Is It Important to Invest in Collegeville’s Business District?

Collegeville’s business district must stay competitive to continue to attract customers. Although Collegeville was once the commercial center for the area, now shoppers have many choices, including

  • Providence Town Center
  • The three shopping centers at the Upper Providence / Limerick border, and
  • The planned Ridge Pike West district in Lower Providence Township just over the Perkiomen Bridge.

We have great businesses in Collegeville, but they need our help.

To attract more customers as a regional destination, fewer than 10 percent of businesses should be non-retail or restaurant uses – but over 50 percent of our businesses provide services. We intend to recruit small boutique retail stores and restaurants to supplement our commercial mix.

Also, the majority of our Main Street business district is between Third and Fourth Avenue. It is just one block long compared with the size other thriving small town Main Streets.

We are fortunate to have a scattering of successful businesses on the next block between 4th and 5th Avenues. One idea is to focus on this area to develop first.

Ursinus College is willing to convert four of their buildings in that block to business use, as well as Commonwealth Hall at the corner of Fifth Ave. and Main St. That block will then be a stronger commercial link to the college’s café and bookstore, which will open for business in the fall of 2019.  We would work with our consultant to help us identify and begin work on other opportunities to increase the appeal of our Main Street and Shopping Centers.

Collegeville Borough Business Development Committee - Main Street 500 block

Funding for a More Robust Business District is an Investment in the Borough’s Future

A revitalized business district:

  • Attracts new life and reinvestment to the Borough,
  • Spurs property owners to renovate their properties to live up to their highest potential, increasing revenue for the Borough and attracting more desirable businesses, and
  • Fills storefronts with unique shops, eateries, pubs and entertainment venues.

A robust business district will also:

  • Absolutely increase tax payments to the Borough. In Collegeville, the average Main Street business pays almost double the taxes of the average homeowner.
  • Attract vibrant businesses and amenities that residents can walk to, which increases the desirability of living in the Borough.
  • Over time, this will result in an increase of property values, and a higher tax base for the Borough in the future through rising house prices.

The proximity of a vibrant business district with attractive shops also produces an increase of quality of life and satisfaction for residents and businesses.

Finding the Funding for this Project

Although there is currently no line item for business development in the borough budget, the borough traditionally has about $200,000 left at the end of each year. The $25,000 can be safely allocated in June, after residents pay their taxes, and we see what savings there are from the budget’s winter line items. This allocation will not increase resident taxes.

The Importance of our Business District

In closing, the commercial district acts as the heart and soul of the Borough. It is the face we project to visitors, investors and ourselves. We believe that Council will see the value to Collegeville’s future and grant funding and we invite the Council and our residents to invest in unleashing Collegeville’s potential.