New Kensington shows off its Corridor of Innovation with art, music festival
Smiles were plentiful Saturday afternoon along Fifth Avenue in New Kensington as throngs of people took to the street to marvel at the city's new Corridor of Innovation during an art and music festival bearing its name.
"You did it!" local business owner Phillipene Orr said as she hugged Sarah Snider, the volunteer coordinator for the improvements to downtown, as people bustled by them.
"I didn't know any of these folks before," Snider said after Orr, who owns Salon Po, an ethnic hair salon, and Fish King, a seafood restaurant, both along Fifth Avenue, wandered off to enjoy the festivities.
"I think my favorite place to be now is along these five blocks," Snider said. "I'm going to cry because it's been a joy to meet everybody and see how many people are collaborating together."
The festival was the first public debut of the corridor, a zone of economic revitalization in the downtown area. It encompasses Fifth Avenue between the 700 and 1100 blocks — one end is Penn State's Entrepreneurial Center, which is set to open in December. The other is the Knead Community Cafe, which opened its doors in late February.
The revitalization efforts have been in the works for about eight years. They are part of a partnership with the city, Penn State New Kensington and The Community Foundation of Westmoreland County.
Several improvements have already been made to the downtown stretch — buildings have been repainted, murals have been installed, and a park has been built. Next on the list is the unveiling of the Entrepreneurial Center, also known as The Corner. That will be Dec. 6.
Officials said the center, located at 707 Fifth Ave., will stimulate economic growth in the city by offering shared working spaces. It has dedicated desk space, private offices and meeting rooms.
"People can come here with great new ideas, entrepreneurial skills," Mayor Tom Guzzo said. "Hopefully then they can actually make the product here."
In addition to live music and food and craft vendors, tours of the center were also featured. People were available to answer questions and hand out information.
New Kensington resident Brionna Schuler took full advantage of that. Schuler said she passes by the building often but never knew what it was being used for.
"It's even more amazing to see what it actually is," Schuler, 31, said. "It's pretty cool."
Larry and Nancy Simback have lived in New Kensington for more than 40 years. They said they came to the festival to see what the city has done to fix up the Fifth Avenue corridor.
"I think there's an opportunity with all the green spaces they have down here now where they tore buildings ... to do different shows, have evening bands and so on," Larry Simback said. "It's nice to see them trying to do something to save the town."
Madasyn Czebiniak is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-226-4702, email@example.com or via Twitter @maddyczebstrib.