Report: Harrisburg corridor good, but needs TLC

The intersection of Third and Market streets in downtown Harrisburg. - (Photo / File)

The Third Street corridor — a backbone for commerce that connects Midtown to the state Capitol complex in downtown Harrisburg — is in need of an adjustment.


A study by the Washington, D.C.-based Urban Land Institute confirmed the corridor’s importance to Harrisburg, but the institute also believes Third Street can be even better — and help to attract residents, businesses and visitors to the city.

“Strategically bridging the gap between the downtown and midtown neighborhoods can put Harrisburg on the map as a vibrant capital city with a strong urban core,” the institute stated in its report, titled “TLC for Harrisburg’s Third Street Corridor.”

Institute officials visited Harrisburg in April for a two-day panel, where officials walked a two-mile stretch of Third Street between Reily Street in Midtown and Chestnut Street downtown and met with residents, business owners and other people who use the corridor. The institute’s panels analyze an area and then make recommendations that community organizations can work to implement.

The institute’s report on Third Street highlights development and key attractions along the corridor, including anchors such as the Broad Street Market, the Susquehanna Art Museum and Millworks.

Looking closer to downtown, the report recognizes recent changes in and around Strawberry Square, including new restaurants and medical offices, as well as the growth in apartment projects driven by Harristown Enterprises. Harristown owns Strawberry Square and sponsored the institute study.

However, the report states that the city still faces challenges, such as blighted and vacant properties, a high poverty rate, issues of homelessness and poorly rated public schools. There also is a perception that Harrisburg is not safe.

The institute said the major physical challenge for Harrisburg is Forster Street, a six-lane road that cuts off downtown from Midtown. The corridor also has many vacant storefronts.

Brad Jones, president and CEO of Harristown, agrees that the corridor faces some barriers to growth. But he believes solutions will emerge from the study.

“I think there is an opportunity to get together a subgroup of folks who were engaged in this effort,” he said. “Our goal is to get more tenants in there.”

Indeed, the study offers a series of recommendations.

One involves doing more to encourage home ownership, which could help attract more retailers. Until tenants can be found for empty storefronts, the institute believes property owners could host pop-up activities to engage the community. Other recommendations include increasing police visibility, cracking down on code enforcement to remediate blight, and sprucing up the streetscape with more trees and benches.

The institute also said an official Third Street coalition should be formed to bring people from downtown and Midtown together and to start branding the corridor as a way to jump-start more activity. 

In addition, the city needs to work with PennDOT and the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission to improve the intersection of North Third and Forster streets, the institute said. In addition to proposed bumpouts at the crosswalks, the institute said reducing the number of lanes on Forster Street could make it more pedestrian friendly.

Harrisburg also could consider installing patterned crosswalks or graphics at the intersection to slow down drivers and improve pedestrian access. Street murals painted on to roadway surfaces also have been shown to slow traffic.

“The intersection should be considered an enormous branding opportunity; it can be a gateway into the Third Street corridor,” the report states.

Here’s a link to the institute report.

Jason Scott
Jason Scott covers state government, real estate and construction, media and marketing, and Dauphin and Cumberland counties. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at

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