Like many areas formerly bolstered by the steel and coal industries, the City of Greensburg in western Pennsylvania has experienced a notable decline in the population and businesses that once enlivened its downtown district. But the area has ‘good bones,’ so to speak, and local stakeholders believed that strategic redevelopment, including repurposing some of the older structures, could revitalize the area. Tapping into a program offered by the National Association of REALTORS®, the local REALTOR® association was able to bring in a team from The Counselors of Real Estate to provide in-depth real estate economic analysis and recommendations. The final report is informing the city’s master plan and inspiring city leaders to think big as it addresses downtown redevelopment.
Justin Capouellez, the Government Affairs Director working with the 570-member REALTORS® Association of Westmoreland Indiana and Mon Valley (RAWIM), explains that in an introductory meeting with association leadership in fall 2022, he asked about their plans, their vision, and what they were going to be working on in the coming year. Their responses led him to think that Greensburg could benefit from NAR’s Transforming Neighborhoods program, through which local REALTOR® associations can draw on the industry perspective and economic expertise of The Counselors of Real Estate (CRE) and its Consulting Corps, the prestigious international organization’s public service initiative that helps plan community revitalization with the input of local stakeholders. Granted one of the coveted Transforming Neighborhoods grants in 2023, Capouellez became the local liaison for the CRE team and worked with RAWIM to plan the tours of the area, specifically the ten locations identified for possible adaptive re-use, as well as the extensive interviews The Counselors would engage in during their five-day site visit.
The team hit the ground running at 8am Monday with a tour of downtown and the surrounding area, accompanied by nearly all the RAWIM board members. From lunchtime through Wednesday, they conducted stakeholder interviews: more than 70 people in total, representing a comprehensive cross-section of the community including Seton Hill University, Greensburg-Salem School District, the chamber of commerce, local non-profits, Habitat for Humanity, corporate bankers, county commissioners, the entire city council, and mayor. “It was intense, but getting feedback from all these segments of the community allowed the CRE team to feel confident about their understanding of the locals invested in the redevelopment vision,” notes Capouellez. “By bringing these influential individuals to the table, the team also ensured that there would be very little resistance to the projects resulting from the report and its recommendations. Their inclusive strategy was a very good one.”
On Friday, the CRE team presented its preliminary findings, which focused on introducing desirable housing to Greensburg’s downtown, including short-term rental accommodations and apartments in mixed-use buildings, and re-organizing the current parking situation from street parking to a central cooperative lot for more efficiency and public confidence. As a low-barrier project to create a sense of place and underscore Greensburg’s identity, the team recommended creating a traditional courthouse square in front of the city’s magnificent courthouse building.
“The biggest impact of the CRE report,” says Capouellez, “has been causing city leadership to break its perpetual planning cycle and start taking action. It is now focused on a site-specific strategy for one of the parcels under consideration that is on public land, which simplifies the project; fundraising for the site-specific plan is well underway, including a significant contribution from RAWIM.” He concludes, “Great potential has always existed in Greensburg, but the outside perspective and analytical expertise that the CRE team brought to the table has clearly inspired and mobilized the city to begin taking action. Everyone involved is grateful to NAR for this big boost.”
To learn more about how local REALTORS® are helping to revitalize downtown Greensburg, Pennsylvania by leveraging the resources of the REALTOR® Party, contact GAD Justin Capouellez at email@example.com or 814.410.4361.