Published first on the Progress News, October 25, 2021

Fall is firmly here, and with the change of seasons comes a flurry of updates in local Redevelopment! You may have noticed that I’ve been pretty quiet the last few weeks, but it certainly wasn’t because things had slowed down. Quite the contrary, in fact! I took my first vacation in eight years (to Arizona to visit family, and yes, it was amazing!) and I also was working feverishly on an exciting new grant opportunity. More about that in a moment!

First, an update on our favorite partnership with AC Valley School District! The River Roots Community Farm, which is located on two gorgeous acres at ACV’s Foxburg campus, is in the process of being “put to bed” for the winter. We have been especially fortunate to have the assistance of two new AmeriCorps members thanks to the support and logistical expertise of Keystone SMILES director Joyce Fosdick! As another layer of our partnership with ACV School District, the AmeriCorps members are helping out in the elementary school several mornings a week and helping to maintain and grow the community farm one morning a week while also working to develop linkages between the farm and school curriculum. Together, we’ve pulled up and composted the finished stalks and stems, spread seed from our pollinator-friendly flower heads, and cleaned out the last few determined weeds. The pepper plants are still producing, so if you like it hot, please feel free to stop by the raised beds and take a handful! We also planted another six beautiful fruit trees from C&A Trees in Clarion, three peaches, and three apples, bringing our first cluster orchard to a dozen trees. We’re certainly looking forward to the beautiful blossoms next spring, and the first bit of fruit next summer and autumn!  

In the spirit of planning for fruitful future returns, we’ve been developing new partnerships throughout our region, too, which brings me back to that exciting new grant opportunity. Over the last few months, what started as a crazy idea to enter a nation-wide redevelopment challenge gained momentum, partners, and projects, and morphed into reality. Last week, our coalition – the Northwestern Pennsylvania Regional Growth Cluster, in the federal lingo – hit submit on a cross-agency, multi-county proposal that has the potential to bring upwards of $100 million of investment into this area. The grant opportunity is called the Build Back Better Regional Challenge, a federal initiative to bring redevelopment dollars into the areas that need it the most! This recent submission was for Phase I of the challenge, a chance for us to demonstrate the hard work we’ve been doing over the last few years and highlight our plans for a regional Innovation Ecosystem. Within a couple of months we’ll know if we were successful with this initial application, but the connections we’ve made during the process of forming our regional coalition and finding common goals are already bearing fruit. These are exciting times, and if you’re interested in learning more, please reach out!