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Editorial: Greensburg tries new move for downtown growth

| Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018, 4:33 p.m.
A vacant property that was formerly Broad Street Dairy located at 1608 Broad Street is seen on Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018 in South Greensburg. The Westmoreland County Land Bank received a $200,000 state grant to restore or clear vacant properties within the county. The vacant storefront site at 1608 Broad Street is one such property being considered.
Shane Dunlap | Tribune-Review
A vacant property that was formerly Broad Street Dairy located at 1608 Broad Street is seen on Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018 in South Greensburg. The Westmoreland County Land Bank received a $200,000 state grant to restore or clear vacant properties within the county. The vacant storefront site at 1608 Broad Street is one such property being considered.

Most Pennsylvania communities have one problem in common. How do they deal with the issue of vacant buildings and empty storefronts that gape in business districts like missing teeth in a sad smile.

Greensburg is putting its money where its mouth is.

The city is taking a pot of $50,000. It’s money that didn’t come from taxes and didn’t come from borrowing. It was paid out by property owners who were fined for code enforcement violations.

Now, the city could have taken that money and decided to use it on something like a new truck or a piece of maintenance equipment or one year of a salary that would have to be paid by other funds next year. Plenty of municipalities would have looked at that money as a way to maintain the status quo because every community has plenty of small hemorrhages that can be triaged with bandages or duct tape when it comes to budget time.

But Greensburg decided to take that money and try something.

They are offering it as grants to business owners to take up residence in those empty spaces. The money might go for those extra things that are outside of rent and relocation, things like redesigning an old store to be a new dentist office or working with an engineer to turn a small space into a bigger one.

Maybe the smartest part of this is the lack of boxes the prospective business has to check off. No, the program is flexible, with officials saying they will address the projects and the grants on a case-by-case basis. This should allow for a little creative thinking that overstructuring might otherwise discourage.

It seems very much in keeping with the goals of the new comprehensive plan on deck to be passed in December. It addresses new opportunities, existing spaces and the need to recruit more businesses to be involved.

Maybe it won’t work for everyone. Maybe 10 businesses will apply for grants and maybe nine of them will give it a shot but ultimately fold, too.

But maybe they won’t. Maybe some will succeed. Maybe that one other business will hold on and become one less gaping hole. In a city where one in every five of the downtown buildings are vacant, even a little movement in the right direction is a positive thing.

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