Princeton Times

News

January 4, 2013

Blueprint Communities project looks to strengthen downtown

PRINCETON — Princeton’s historic downtown is the heart of the city, but that heart isn’t as healthy as many leaders and citizens believe it can become.

There’s a team in place hoping to draft a blueprint for a stronger Princeton and a better business development climate.

The city has been selected as one of the 2013 Blueprint Communities initiatives, thanks to an application filed late last year by Community Connections, Inc. Princeton has been identified as one of the most recent round of Blueprint Communities.

This year’s approved applicants include Bluefield, Hinton, Marlinton, Richwood and Sophia.

“The project is kind of broad. It involves training a team of  people within the community, and that team focuses on a particular project within the community. It can be as broad or as narrow as the team decides,” Princeton Blueprint Communities leader Lori McKinney said Thursday. “The training team, through the Blueprint Communities, then helps you plan the project. It helps you find funding for the project if necessary, and it helps you implement the project.”

Locally, McKinney said the Blueprint Communities team opted to focus on the downtown Princeton area, possibly including but not limited to a building that once housed a theater downtown or possible expansion of the Dick Copeland Town Square.

“We talked about it, and the downtown is really the center of Princeton, and unfortunately, some people will say that’s the worst part,” McKinney said. “We all know the saying that we’re only as strong as our weakest link, and it only makes sense that the downtown would be the place we’d like to strengthen.”

Hub Director of Community Strategies Andrea Salina said the Blueprint Communities training workshop agenda is still in the works, but she said dates have been set through November.

Once the planning stage is complete, the plan implementation will begin.

“You can really focus on a project that has maybe seemed out of reach or unattainable, and it’s just going to magnify the ability of the community to actually accomplish a project,” McKinney said.

A brief session for Princeton’s Blueprint Communities teammates is slated this afternoon, and Salina said more details about the project at hand will likely emerge during a Blueprint Communities workshop in late March.

Blueprint Communities was launched in 10 West Virginia communities in 2007. FHLBank Pittsburgh invested approximately $1 million in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Delaware between 2006 and 2009 in support of selected Blueprint Communities.

Since Blueprint Communities was introduced to West Virginia, local team leaders report that 20 housing projects, 25 new or expanded businesses, 33 infrastructure projects and 69 other projects have been completed or are under way. Total public/private funding for these projects stands at $26.8 million.

In 2012, FHLBank Pittsburgh, in partnership with the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation and the West Virginia Community Development Hub, announced that nominations and applications were open for new participants.

According to a Blueprint Communities brochure, FHLBank Pittsburgh and its partners developed Blueprint Communities to be a revitalization catalyst and leadership development initiative and thus, help create sustainable communities in the region. The Blueprint Communities mission is furthered by:

• Fostering strong local leadership, collaboration and development capacity;

• Serving as a catalyst for revitalization based on sound local and regional planning that includes a clear vision for the community and a comprehensive implementation strategy;

• Encouraging coordinated investments in targeted communities by public and private funders.

— Contact Tammie Toler at ttoler@ptonline.net.

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