Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

ULI Report: Harrisburg’s 3rd Street corridor good, but could be great

One of the commercial centers of the 3rd Street corridor–N. 3rd and Verbeke streets in Midtown Harrisburg.

Harrisburg’s 3rd Street corridor is headed in a positive direction, though it remains a work in progress in terms of redevelopment, economic activity and walkability.

That’s the general conclusion of a just-completed study by the Washington, D.C.-based Urban Land Institute (ULI), a nonprofit research and educational organization that recently examined the corridor from Reily Street in Midtown to Chestnut Street downtown.

“The 3rd Street corridor possesses a great deal of momentum and potential for continued development,” states the report, titled “TLC for Harrisburg’s Third Street Corridor.” “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.”

ULI visited Harrisburg for two days in April, walking the two-mile stretch then interviewing stakeholders who live, work and own businesses there. Their analysis and report were sponsored by Harristown Development, which owns Strawberry Square, as well as many buildings on S. 3rd Street between Market and Chestnut streets.

The 14-page report lauds the recent redevelopment and adaptive reuse that has occurred along the stretch, praising such places as the Susquehanna Art Museum, Midtown Scholar Bookstore, Midtown Cinema, the Broad Street Market and the Millworks.

However, it states that much work still needs to be done so that the corridor can achieve a fuller potential. It cites three specific challenges:

  • “Dead Zones”: Many buildings have been restored, but many have not. There is still too much blight and too many empty storefronts along the corridor, creating areas of inactivity.
  • Forster Street: Forster Street is too wide, busy and inhospitable, cutting off downtown from Midtown and deterring pedestrian activity.
  • Aesthetics: Aesthetics are inconsistent. Some areas appear pleasant, while others do not, both in terms of streetscape and the condition of structures.

The busy intersection of N. 3rd and Forster streets, cited in a recent report as an impediment to improving the 3rd Street corridor in Harrisburg.

The study then offers a variety of recommendations, such as incentivizing homeownership, encouraging pop-ups in empty storefronts, increasing police visibility, enforcing maintenance codes, improving the streetscape and better connecting downtown and Midtown.

Two suggestions stand out as especially ambitious.

The first recommends improving the intersection of N. 3rd and Forster streets by employing traffic-calming measures, making it more pedestrian-friendly and possibly reducing the number of lanes. The second proposes forming a “Third Street Coalition,” which would help promote, brand and advocate for the corridor.

“[The study} accomplished what I thought it would, which is to highlight the corridor and promote collaboration,” said Brad Jones, CEO of Harristown. “It highlighted a lot of the progress here, but showed there’s a lot of opportunity to grow and improve this corridor.”

Click here to read the report: Harrisburg Third St Corridor TAP Report, web final 2

Disclosure: TheBurg is located along the 3rd Street corridor. Editor-in-Chief Lawrance Binda offered input for this study as a “stakeholder participant.”

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