How will downtown Hershey look five years from now?
Quite different, if all goes according to plan.
A revitalization strategy crafted by Lititz-based Derck & Edson Associates LLP — the land planners hired last year by the Downtown Hershey Association — has been completed.
Encapsulated in it is a vision that Derry Township residents, community leaders, businesses, civic organizations and government officials have been discussing since the township’s last comprehensive plan in 1991. It was formalized in early 2013 with the creation of the DHA.
That vision — laid out in a series of goals and action items, which build the case for Main Street designation — is a more walkable downtown with higher-density mixed-use development, public green spaces, improved parking areas and expanded dining, retail and entertainment options.
“This plan plants a lot of seeds,” said Chris Brown, project manager with Derck & Edson and the lead architect of the downtown blueprint.
Hiring a township economic development manager to oversee the activities of the DHA and meet the requirements of the state’s Main Street designation is the next big step, Brown said.
That person will be responsible for submitting the revitalization plan to the state Department of Community and Economic Development and gaining acceptance into its Keystone Communities program, which includes Main Street and opens up potential funding streams for downtown revitalization projects.
Thirty-three applications have been received for the job, Brown said. The goal is to have someone in place by March, according to township officials.
In the interim, the groundwork is being laid to check items off the master plan. A tax-increment financing district, or TIF, is already being discussed to help pay for public improvements, which could entice further downtown development and redevelopment. The latter would include the old Hershey chocolate factory on East Chocolate Avenue and rail corridor behind Chocolate Avenue.