Submitted by 2002 Bicentennial Streetscape Committee members Chuck Copeland and Mark Peluso, in grateful memory of the energetic commitment given to this initiative by Bob Smith, Dick Shaw, Dave Williams, and Jim Foster.
For nearly two decades, Beaver Borough Council struggled to assemble the resources and political will required to advance a greatly needed revamp of its downtown business district. Confronted by one complicated obstacle after another, the initiative had not gained sufficient traction to move the project forward.
But as the new century was getting underway, energy being generated in anticipation of Beaver’s upcoming 2002 Bicentennial celebration proved to be exactly what was needed to overcome 20 years of streetscape “inertia.” Led by Council President Jim Foster and Councilman Dave Williams, the Borough appointed a special four- member “Bicentennial Streetscape Committee,” and then gave it the necessary latitude and support to finally enable a path forward.
At its first meeting, the newly established committee made the difficult decision to abandon streetscape engineering and design work that had previously been completed, and then started over from scratch. Since that earlier design hadn’t inspired action for over a decade, the committee agreed that it never was going to. The talented local firm of Hancock Architecture was engaged as the project’s new consultant, and serious planning was quickly underway.
Targeted features envisioned by the committee (and ultimately approved by Council) included:
- Installation of all new brick (herringbone-patterned) sidewalks
- Fabrication of historically accurate brass streetlamps
- Construction of a scaled version of the historic courthouse bell tower n Location of numerous planting beds throughout the downtown area n Provision of an underground irrigation system
- Planting of all new street trees as selected by Beaver’s Tree Commission n Installation of special up-lighting for variously located large oak trees n Creation of a professionally designed “wayfinding” signage system
- Placement of quality bench seating throughout the downtown area
- Involvement of Penn Dot in the project through a request for all new traffic signalization
RELOCATION / ELIMINATION OF OVERHEAD UTILITY LINES
Due to the skillful and tireless efforts of Councilman (now Mayor) Tom Hamilton, Beaver is one of the few communities in the Pittsburgh region with a business district that is free from the unsightly tangle of electric lines and cable wires. A look at old photos of Beaver’s downtown area punctuates the remarkable transformation to its now clutter-free skyline. Next time you see Mayor Hamilton, be sure to thank him for his relentless determination to make this happen!
PARKING METER REMOVAL
A comprehensive study (overseen by Beaver’s Business District Authority) was conducted to ascertain the viability of removing parking meters from the core downtown areas. As a trade-off for Council’s (apprehensive) willingness to give meter-less downtown parking a try, the streetscape committee arranged for meter post collars to be buried beneath the brick pavers (just in case this friendly free-parking gesture didn’t work, and the meters had to be re-installed). 20 years later those unused collars are (thankfully) still buried!
PROGRESSIVE ZONING STRATEGIES
Inspired by the energy generated by the streetscape initiative re-start, Beaver’s Planning Commission (working in concert with the Borough’s Business District Authority) proposed the adoption of several new zoning strategies, including:
- A requirement that all new street-level occupancies in the downtown district must be retail businesses, restaurants, or provide personal services.
- A spatial limitation requiring that businesses in the downtown must be of a size and scale compatible with the overall character of the Beaver community.
- The development and adoption of an entirely new business signage ordinance for the downtown district.
Borough Council ultimately supported (and wrangled-through the enactment of) such policies, which have greatly protected the character and enhanced the vibrancy of Beaver’s central business district.
Through careful placement of trees and planting areas, restaurants were encouraged to create outside dining opportunities. The now ubiquitous sidewalk tables
and chairs have been enthusiastically welcomed
by residents and visitors and have contributed significantly to the active downtown scene evident on Beaver’s busy sidewalks.
PROJECT FUNDING STRATEGIES
Borough Council demonstrated their serious commitment to the project by:
- Assuming responsibility for a significant portion of the $3M+ funding needed to construct
the final approved streetscape design and features by allocating significant capital reserves and by securing needed project financing.
- Supporting the streetscape committee’s efforts to augment funding through community contributions for sidewalk bricks, street trees, sidewalk benches, and special streetscape features.
- Engaging the generous support and manpower of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) during the construction of the Bell Tower.
- Securing significant assistance and investment by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation evidenced by the installation of all new signalization structures and traffic lights.
The streetscape project greatly benefited from the strong support and commitment of its community partners, including the:
- Beaver Business District Authority
- Beaver Planning Commission
- Beaver Tree Commission
- Beaver Area Heritage Foundation n Beaver Chamber of Commerce
Beaver’s police department, street maintenance crews, downtown businesses, and committed volunteers have worked very hard to keep the downtown safe and looking great. The maintenance of quality public spaces is a never- ending task, and the Borough has recognized that reality from the start.
The dynamics involved in reinvigorating traditional downtowns are multi-faceted and very complex. The 2002 Bicentennial Streetscape initiative was one important part of a broad (and on-going) commitment by the municipality to continuously improve and maintain its community business district for the use and benefit of all of its residents and visitors.