Lift Johnstown supports an evolving set of core projects. We started with three plans that were the catalyst for our creation, then formed a Steering Committee, which selected the 6 priorities summarized below. Those priorities are evolving. For instance, the City economic-development strategy has reached its implementation stage with iCity Johnstown and many aspects of the Downtown Stroll District are being developed in the Smart Transportation grant. Our six key priorities are:
Lift Johnstown supports the iCity Johnstown initiative and efforts by Johnstown Area Regional Industries and others to foster economic development, but also works directly to promote entrepreneurship and to revitalize the Downtown and Cambria City Cultural District. For information on the city efforts, please see www.icityjohnstown.com.
The city has been awarded a $1.5 million grant from PennDOT for a "Smart Tranpsortation" project in the downtown that will put in place many of the predevelopment pieces that will support the multi-use district or "stroll district” at the lower end of Main Street, including retail, restaurants, green space and gateways designed for comfortable walking. The project aligns with the business development strategy and meshes with the efforts to attract new businesses to the traditional Central Business District encompassing several square blocks around Central Park. Property assessments have been done and options and funding are being sought.
Neighborhoods, Gardens, Blight, Housing
Eight neighborhood gardens will soon be in place throughout the city as a way to engage community residents and develop an urban agriculture program that's promotes healthy lifestyles. The Greater Prospect Community Co-Op store is central to the initiative and will provide inexpensive, fresh produce as well as prepared foods such as soups. Other aspects of this core initiatve include three new “green” mid-income houses built in Kernville that were certified LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Development) and five houses were rehabilitated and five structures demolished. The goal is to attract middle-income people into the neighborhood. The Cambria County Redevelopment Authority with a $1.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development demolished 12 vacant structures and rehabed houses in several other neighborhoods as well as Dale Borough. A campaign against blight is having major success and is being combined with a planned vacant-lot and community gardens initiative to really change the character our communities and rebuild community pride.
Parks, Trails and Active/Healthy Lifestyles
All three plans recognized that the area's greatest asset is its proximity to outdoor recreation and scenic beauty, and these connections were the centerpiece of the Laurel Highlands Conservation Landscape Initiative. This core goal seeks to make a "liveable community" with parks and trails, new river access points and a trail network that serves both local residents and outside visitors. The same trails that attract visitors enable local residents to adopt an active lifestyle that make them healthier as they walk or bike to shop, work, play.... These amenities will make the neighborhoods more attractive both to businesses and residents. Specific projects noted elsewhere include an expanded Stonycreek River Park in Kernville as a terraced green space connecting the neighborhood to the Stonycreek River and Jim Mayer Riverswalk.
Both the Master Plan and the 2020 Regional Vision identified increased learning and workforce development opportunities as a key need to address current employer needs and future workforce desires. Our education initiatives include development of an education center Downtown. In addition, Lift supports STEM or Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education. Our STEM support includes sponsorship of the FIRST LEGO LEAGUE competition held at Saint Francis University.
We've heard many times that Johnstown (like most communities) operates in silos, which means we don’t talk to ourselves very much. A basic premise of Lift Johnstown is that the sharing of information is not only a way to explain the plan, sharing of information is a key part of the plan. In others words, we take the position that communicating what the community is doing, including the efforts of Lift Johnstown, is part of our mission. This communications will encourage everyone to get involved and help lift our community. We have already seen several successes result when plans by one group got support and fresh ideas and energy from other groups.