SHARON, Pa. – About halfway through the allocation of more than $14 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds, the city of Sharon, Pa., is getting ready for changes to its business community that officials believe will directly impact the quality of life of city residents and the region.
“Our goal is to make a difference and to create positive changes for the city of Sharon that will last for many years to come,” says Bob Fiscus, city manager and fire chief, referencing the federal relief funds the city received in 2021. “We have been working hard to get it right and believe we’ll see some of these changes come to fruition this year.”
The former Huntington Bank building downtown will be demolished to create a green space for gatherings and to better connect Penn State Shenango to the city’s main thoroughfare.
“Every small city we visited that had gone through a successful revitalization process included the creation or renovation of a downtown space for gathering and for events,” says Sherris Moreira, director of downtown development. “Right now, we have to close streets to do any kind of large-scale event. Having a larger green space by the Shenango riverfront opens up all kinds of opportunities for events.”
New restaurants are planned to open by summer, including Croakers Brew Pub, Elephant No. 8 Thai Restaurant, Julian’s Bar & Grille and Nova Destinations. And a new outdoor event patio will be created by The Corinthian Banquet Center near the former Huntington bank site.
“We expect this to draw visitors from miles around to downtown Sharon on a regular basis, which in turn will help our other businesses to better thrive in our downtown and outlying areas,” Fiscus says.
Shenango Launchbox, partially funded by the city’s ARPA money, will become more active in supporting new and current businesses in the city and the surrounding region in 2023, Fiscus says.
Shenango Launchbox is “a startup incubator contributing to local economic development by providing guidance, mentorship and support to Penn State Shenango students and recent alumni interested in beginning a new entrepreneurial venture,” Penn State’s website states.
Businesses located in the city will also have access to grants, Fiscus says, adding: “We’ll hear more about this later in the year.”
Other projects and initiatives funded so far by ARPA include police and fire equipment and training; COVID relief to small businesses; the support of the creation of a Sharon Community Development Corp. – a nonprofit that can help find funding for city initiatives and support downtown revitalization; large-scale business expansions, including the support of a headquarters for Diehl Automotive Group; an aquaponics program inside The Landing, the former Westinghouse plant; and the development of downtown apartments and an indoor recreation center near Penn State Shenango.
Non-ARPA-funded projects the city is focusing on in 2023 include a $730,000 gateway project at the Ohio line into Sharon at U.S. Route 62. Other projects are an expansion of the Lots to Love program, including creating parklets on formerly blighted neighborhood sites and also getting lots back onto tax rolls via the adopt-a-lot program; continued demolition of blighted houses and buildings; and roadway improvement projects such as the Irvine Avenue reconstruction, which will include new sidewalks, curbs and pavement.
“We’ll be targeting additional redevelopment projects as well,” Fiscus says. “Just the word of changes coming, alone, has greatly increased the number of calls we are getting from interested developers, business owners and entrepreneurs, many of whom are touring our city with the downtown development team. We expect more positive changes ahead just because of that alone.”