An empty lot along State Street in Hamburg will soon be transformed into a recreational space for community events.
“Our latest community development project is happening right here on this lot,” Our Town Foundation Executive Director Deena Kershner told local officials and community volunteers gathered at the lot at 222 State St. in downtown Hamburg on Friday, June 30, to celebrate the latest grant funding for the State Street Square Development Project.
The nearly 3,000 square foot multipurpose facility in the downtown business district includes a covered stage, kitchen area with two concession windows, public restrooms and off-street parking lot for the community to use as a hub for performances and other family-oriented activities. Construction is set to begin after the Sept. 2 Taste of Hamburg-er Festival.
Our Town Foundation of Hamburg, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the revitalization of the borough’s downtown area, received a $40,000 grant from T-Mobile as one of 25 Hometown Grant recipients. Company representatives presented a check to OTF.
“We are extremely grateful to T-Mobile for this generous grant, which will bring us one step closer in completing our State Street Square Development Project,” Kershner said. “When completed, this project will provide a community gathering place that will engage our residents while spurring economic vitality for the downtown businesses.”
Hamburg was one of 25 towns in the nation to receive this grant.
“To be out here and to see the vision of what they’re trying to accomplish to bring the community together, to have purchased this lot and have a vision of constructing an area for the community to come to is fantastic for us,” said Joseph Giannone, senior manager of business development, small town and rural, for T-Mobile. “With this grant, we’re excited for this community to be able to do that.”
T-Mobile has given more than $400,000 in Hometown Grants across Pennsylvania in communities such as Kutztown, Lock Haven, Pittston and South Fayette Township. Hamburg is the 13th town in Pennsylvania to receive one of the grants.
“To see the vision of what these towns would like to do with various projects and have us help them come to life through these grants is incredible,” Giannone said. “In addition to that, we are very much invested into small communities — employment opportunities, store locations (one of its newest opened at Tilden Ridge last year), Project 10Million (an initiative to deliver internet connectivity to underserved students at no cost), and other programs we do through our school systems. In addition to that we provide fantastic wireless service.”
“We’re really excited to be able to do all those things,” he continued. “We want to care about what communities care about, and we’re excited to be able to do that here.”
“I think it is pretty amazing when you consider the last dollars in to make this possible is from T-Mobile … ask yourself, how is it that Hamburg, Pa., is one of 25 locations selected from all across the country,” Berks County Commissioner Christian Leinbach said. “I think in many respects, it says a lot about people like Deena, the Our Town Foundation, you (pointing to those gathered) and the people that live here and call Hamburg home.
“This is as much a celebration of $40,000 from T-Mobile as it is a celebration of Hamburg: what it was, what it has been and is becoming. It happens when people in a community come together with a common vision and say, ‘What can I do to make a difference?’”
“We saw the impact that it was going to have long-term in this part of the county,” Berks Commissioner Michael Rivera said. “Deena and Our Town Foundation, congratulations on the awesome work that you’ve been doing here.”
The commissioners presented a certificate of recognition to OTF for its efforts to create an outdoor community hub where friends and family gather to enjoy events.
“These events will create an engaging, vibrant community, thereby, increasing the economic viability of the town,” Rivera read, recognizing OTF’s vision.
Hamburg Borough Manager Amy S. Burkhart thanked T-Mobile for its generous support.
“This $40,000 will make a substantial impact on the final development of State Street Square Project, an initiative that was conceived through Hamburg’s community envisioning process,” Burkhart said. “When asked to consider how the community should move forward, businesses and residents alike agreed that Hamburg should have an outdoor community event space, and now years later the project is coming to fruition.”
“In 2015, this lot became available for sale and the (OTF) Board of Directors at that time felt it would be a wise community investment. We saw the potential for turning the lot into another community asset,” Kershner said.
Using proceeds from its annual Taste of Hamburg-er Festival funds, OTF purchased the lot for $60,000.
“Having a vacant lot for hosting events was not enough,” Kershner said, noting that OTF needed access to electric and water utilities, a facility for storing vending equipment and supplies, a stage and parking.
“Putting forth all of our ideas, a conceptual design plan was drafted, and then came the fun part of seeking funding to move forward with the project.”
Over the last few years, Kershner applied for and received grants that allowed OTF to move forward in stages.
The design architectural drawings were funded by the Taste of Hamburg-er Festival at a cost of $25,000.
Design land development and storm water management plans were funded by the Berks County Community Foundation and the Taste of Hamburg-er Festival at a cost of $20,000, with services donated by Crossroads Engineering Group LLC.
Storm water management and construction of a gravel parking lot was funded by a $115,000 Berks County American Rescue Plan grant.
The installation of water, sewer and gas lines was funded by a $15,000 Giant Corp. Keep America Beautiful grant.
A $200,000 state grant through the Department of Community and Economic Development will be applied to the cost of constructing the building, which is the project’s next stage, but an additional $150,000 is needed to cover the estimated total cost of $350,000.
A few weeks ago, OTF kicked off a capital campaign, raising about $13,000 from businesses and residents, and Kershner continued to apply for grants.
On June 30, OTF announced the T-Mobile grant.
“The project would not be coming to fruition without the support of our community members, borough officials, state legislators, and even our federal government,” said Kershner.
The event included lunch by The WhereHouse of Hamburg and music by the Front Porch Strippers band, featuring Richard J. Mextorf and Terry Laughlin performing a wide range of familiar songs on guitar, “stripping music down to the simplest form” and “singing from the heart.”
Source: Berkshire mont