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York prepares to tackle its tourism treasures, challenges

Roger Brooks opened the eyes of roughly 100 York business and city leaders the evening of
April 30. He painted the picture of what an outsider sees the first time he or
she ventures into the city as a tourist.

Roger Brooks opened the eyes of roughly 100 York business and city leaders the evening of
April 30. He painted the picture of what an outsider sees the first time he or
she ventures into the city as a tourist.

He identified some gems, and a few warts, said Dave Hogg,
chairman of the York County Convention & Visitors Bureau. The insights are
an opportunity for the city to try to capitalize on the positive and improve
the negative, he said.

“I really sensed a unanimous desire in talking with people
afterwards that this is a tremendous opportunity that we would be foolish to
squander,” Hogg said. He also is the president of York County-based Springwood
Real Estate Services.

Brooks is the founder of Destination Development Inc., a
Washington-based firm that provides tourism-consulting services. He was hired
to perform a preliminary assessment of the treasures and challenges the York market has in terms
of attracting visitors.

“What we’re really trying to identify is a one- or
two-linear-block area that holds some great promise, if it just receives the
right amount of vision and investment, to become a tourism generator or at
least a stopping point for tourists,” Hogg said.

After visiting the area with four helpers, Brooks presented
his findings at the DreamWrights Youth & Family Theatre. The event was
sponsored by the York County Convention & Visitors Bureau, Better York, the
York County Chamber of Commerce and the York County Economic Development Corp.

Hogg said he was encouraged that Brooks came up with ideas
similar to concepts city officials have already begun to work on, such as
creating an arts district on Beaver
Street between Market and Philadelphia streets.

Brooks also recommended making improvements to bring York’s streetscape to
life, Hogg said. Specifically, Brooks identified two areas for the city to
concentrate on: the area of West
Market Street between George and Beaver streets,
and the block of North Beaver
Street between West Market and Philadelphia streets.

The areas fall within the Codorus Creek Corridor, a
redevelopment initiative the York County Economic Development Corp. is involved
with, said Darrell Auterson, president and chief executive officer of the
corporation. Improving the designated areas would help the redevelopment of the
corridor, he said.

“We really do have a golden opportunity here, through an
appropriate plan and appropriate follow-through, to really turn the downtown
area into a very inviting, very attractive place that people are going to want
to be,” Auterson said.

The community must now come together to create and implement
a plan using these recommendations, Hogg said. He said he hopes to have
Destination Development formulate the plan, rather than try to compile it
locally.

Bill Swartz III, president of York-based Sherman Property
Management Inc., said he hopes city and business officials will consider
improving signs directing visitors to parking lots, lowering the cost to park
in a garage and increasing the number of parking spaces.

Swartz said Brooks reminded the crowd how great York could be. He hopes
to see some of Brooks’ ideas come to fruition, including the addition of
sidewalk-dining options to Market
Street, where his business is located, and the
creation of a restaurant row along George
Street.

“The most important thing is for York
to decide what its brand will be because the days of being the factory-tour capital
of the U.S.
are over,” Swartz said.

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