The subdivision and land development plans approved last year by the Reading Planning Commission will promote growth and revitalization efforts in the city, commission Chairman Wayne Bealer said.
Bealer presented the commission’s annual report to City Council during a recent meeting.
A total of 18 plans were approved in 2021, he said, noting one of the highlights was the Hope Rescue Mission’s plan for construction of the LightHouse Women and Children’s Center.
Ground was broken in August for the shelter at the mission’s former thrift shop in the 600 block of North Sixth Street.
The commission also approved Refuge Home’s plan to convert a building on McKnight Street into a group-care facility for survivors of sex trafficking.
“These facilities join Mary’s Shelter on Kenhorst Boulevard, Safe Berks on Chestnut Street and a number of smaller programs spread throughout the city that provide much needed assistance to our most vulnerable populations,” Bealer said.
Also highlighted was Habitat for Humanity’s Buttonwood Gateway-Miltimore Street revitalization plan.
“The Miltimore Street revitalization adds to the much-needed stock of affordable housing here in the city,” he said.
Habitat will break ground Thursday for the construction of 11 new houses on the street in northwest Reading.
Bealer said Habitat’s project, along with the infrastructure work being coordinated by the Public Works Department, will complete the transformation of the neighborhood that started with the development of Gateway Drive in 2007 and continued in 2021 with Gateway West housing development.
A partnership of the Reading Redevelopment Authority and Delaware Valley Development Company, the latter project should be finished this year.
It includes a community center and 47 low-income residential units that will be rented to families and individuals with a household income of 60% or less of the median income for Berks County.
An important step also was made toward the redevelopment of a partly vacant shopping center at North Sixth and Spring streets for mixed use, he said.
Douglas Development’s plans for the former Reading Station outlet buildings include the existing Price Rite grocery store and proposals for a Gopuff food and goods delivery service, a restaurant and a CubeSmart self-storage facility.
Douglas plans to eventually build a residential complex of four four-story buildings with a total of 352 units, Bealer said.
Bealer also highlighted plans approved for neighborhood grocery stores, downtown college and university expansions, student housing and more.
Reading Area Community College’s expansion, Albright College’s development of Exeter and Rockland halls and Berkshire II Real Estate Holding’s remodeling of the Berkshire Building at North Fifth and Washington streets as housing for Alvernia University students show the importance of these learning institutions to the development of the city, Bealer said.
Working with Alvernia University, developer Dream Ventures plans the renovation of a building at 100 S. Fourth St. into 20 student apartments, he said, noting the project is just one proposed by the developer to provide student housing.
So far, Bealer said, the university has not provided the commission with an estimate of how much student housing will be needed.
The large number of residential and mixed-use projects, planned and underway, raises a few basic questions, Bealer said.
“Will the city have enough sewage capacity?” he asked. “Will there be enough parking downtown, and how will the city accommodate its new citizens?”
And with a greater population downtown, including an increased number of students, Bealer said, Reading will need to plan for increased walkability and traffic control measures, bike lanes and other accommodations.
The planning commission, he said, is working in cooperation with the city’s zoning department on a comprehensive system to keep track of significant changes and plan for future development.
Source: Berkshire mont