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Hamburg’s Our Town Foundation breaks ground on State Street Square project

An empty lot is being transformed into a recreational space for the community in Hamburg.

Our Town Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the revitalization of the borough’s downtown area, recently celebrated the groundbreaking for the State Street Square Development Project along State Street.

With a ceremonial shovel in hand at the lot at 222 State St. on Monday, Sept. 25, Our Town Foundation Executive Director Deena Kershner said, “It’s great to finally see something happening because it’s been since 2015 so this has been a long time coming.”

“We’ve been working on getting the actual shovel in the ground for eight years, so it’s great to see it actually happening,” she added.

Our Town Foundation in Hamburg celebrated the groundbreaking for the State Street Square project on Monday, Sept. 25. (Lisa Mitchell - MediaNews Group)
Our Town Foundation in Hamburg celebrated the groundbreaking for the State Street Square project on Monday, Sept. 25. (Lisa Mitchell – MediaNews Group)

Ontelaunee Builders, of 121 Ontelaunee Trail in Hamburg, had already begun work on the site, removing the topsoil and staking out the building followed by installing the footers. By the following week, construction of the shell of the building was anticipated to be well underway with the roof trusses set to go up this week.

“That’s a lot of building in a week’s time,” Kershner said.

She said that when the lot became available in 2015, the OTF Board of Directors felt it would be a wise investment for turning the lot into another community asset. Using proceeds from 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 in June.

OTF needed access to electric and water utilities, a facility for storing vending equipment and supplies, a stage and parking.

The nearly 3,000-square-foot multipurpose facility includes a covered stage, kitchen area with two concession windows, public restrooms and an off-street parking lot for the community to use as a hub for performances and other family-oriented activities.

“Our Town Foundation is looking forward to having this as a downtown pocket park where smaller activities can take place for the community,” Kershner said at the Sept. 25 groundbreaking.

Over the last few years, Kershner applied for and received grants that allowed OTF to move forward in stages.

“We’re doing it in phases so this is just constructing the shell of the building and then next spring hopefully the stage will be under roof and we’re working on getting the bathroom plumbing fixtures and kitchen equipment; that’s the next stage we’re actually hoping to get a grant through the Local Share Account Grants program,”  Kershner said.

Hamburg Borough Manager Amy S. Burkhart joined in the groundbreaking celebration.

“I know this project’s been long coming for the community, and the borough of Hamburg is very much looking forward to having the State Street Square completed and operational in providing a new venue for our community,” Burkhart said.

Also in attendance were James Stevens from Rep. Jamie Barton’s office; local photographer Jay Ressler; Glenn Kershner and contractor Ivan Zimmerman of Ontelaunee Builders.

Hamburg author and longtime resident Janet Barr shared fond memories of her children and the neighborhood children playing at the vacant lot. She was eager to see the project’s progress.

Barr is known for writing The Hamburg Item‘s “In Our Neck of the Woods” column. In 2013, the Hamburg Area Historical Society published  “In Our Neck of the Woods,” a compendium of columns from November 1998 to October 2005.

Project funding

“The funding that we had to expend to date that has not been covered by grants has been taken out of the Taste of Hamburg-er Festival profits over the years,” Kershner said. “The festival is contributing back toward the community.”

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 state Department of Community and Economic Development will be applied to the cost of constructing the building, which is the project’s current stage, but additional funding is needed to cover the estimated total cost of $350,000.

In June, OTF announced that the project received a $40,000 grant from T-Mobile as one of 25 Hometown Grant recipients.

OTF kicked off a capital campaign this summer, raising additional funding from donations from businesses and residents.

Kershner continues to apply for grants.

“The project would not be coming to fruition without the support of our community members, borough officials, state legislators, and even our federal government,” Kershner said in June.

Source: Berkshire mont

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