The Lansdale branding initiative took another step forward on Tuesday night, as members of the Communications Commission and the Economic Development Committee served as a focus group for the community branding consultants from North Star Destination Strategies.
Led by North Star president Don McEachern, the committee members -- and a handful of residents -- participated in a series of exercises aimed at gathering honest feedback on what people like and dislike about the borough.
Among the features that residents enjoyed most were the walkability of the town, affordable housing, accessibility to major highways and public transportation, the farmers' market, and the many annual activities and celebrations.
On the flip side, concerns about empty storefronts, parking issues and the dated look of Main Street were brought up, with Economic Development Committee member Doug DiPasquale stating that that he'd like to see a modernized downtown area.
"I like the fact that there is a historical appeal to the town, but I think we're at the point now where that isn't easily kept," said DiPasquale, who recently moved his Minuteman Press franchise to the 400 block of West Main Street.
Aside from making the downtown area easier on the eyes, the group's main point of contention centered on making the borough a vibrant destination, filled with food and entertainment options.
Borough manager Timi Kirchner said she'd like to see more variety in restaurant choices, and Economic Development Committee member Scott Walton expressed his displeasure in having to drive to surrounding townships for entertainment.
"From a selfish standpoint, I'm tired of driving my kids to Montgomeryville to see a movie, or to Hatfield to go skating, or to North Wales to see a movie," said Walton.
For councilwoman Mary Fuller, it's just a matter of time.
"I'm excited about the [branding initiative] and I think it's something that Lansdale desperately needs," said Fuller. "We need to let people know -- within Lansdale and outside of Lansdale -- that we are a community that has things to offer. People should be proud to live here, and outsiders should want to come here."
Fuller stated that the key is to put emphasis on the "re-growth" of Main Street, and then extend that growth throughout the borough. She estimates that if everything goes according to plan, Lansdale could be unrecognizable in as little as two-to-three years.
"We have all these great development projects on deck, and we're going to have a lot of new people coming in," said Fuller. "Let's keep them here."
The North Star consultants will continue to gather information throughout the week through a series of phone, internet and in-person interviews.
A formal presentation to borough council in scheduled on Wednesday at 7 p.m.