Give props to Pittston.
Residents in this city midway between Wilkes-Barre and Scranton could have rolled over and quit on their community; for awhile, large swaths of the place looked as if maybe they had. The same setbacks that caused other once-busy hubs across Pennsylvania to go dormant hit hard here too: brain drain, the collapse of local manufacturing, the rise of shopping malls.
But a core group of Pittstonians never surrendered hope or civic pride. They planned, worked, applied for grants and worked harder.
Their commitment, which persisted over years, then decades, is evident today.
You can see it in Pittston’s downtown galleries and eateries as well as in its big, emerging projects such as the Geisinger health system building on North Main Street, expected to open later this month, and the new River’s Edge condominiums.
You can sense it during events ranging from the perennial favorite Tomato Festival, held in mid-summer, to newer activities such as the city’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade and its series of Second Friday Art Walks.
You can hear it in the words of visitors such as state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, who toured the city Monday. “It’s great to see leaders who have a game plan on how to move the community forward,” he said.
Certainly, a similar spirit of revitalization has gripped people elsewhere in the region, resulting through the years in, for example, Luzerne’s revived Main Street and the emergence of the grassroots Plymouth Alive group and its Kielbasa Festival. Wilkes-Barre, too, has made great strides with its downtown.
But Pittston arguably stands alone in its steadfastness in moving toward the goal and its willingness to adopt progressive ideas.
It was among a consortium of four communities to establish the region’s first land bank, a tool for removing blighted buildings. “Only a handful of places in this state, including Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, have moved to establish land banks since lawmakers OK’d the option in late 2012,” we noted in an earlier editorial.
Pittston also has appealed to local colleges, hoping to draw a satellite campus to its downtown, as highlighted in our 2014 editorial titled “Improving by degrees.” A few years ago, the city’s government wisely adopted a non-discrimination ordinance. And the community continues to embrace public art as part of its renaissance strategy, as evidenced most recently by the Pittston Inspiration Mural.
More remains to be done, especially in the city’s residential areas. But praise Pittston’s key players for demonstrating what can be accomplished in Northeastern Pennsylvania with the right balance of passion and perseverance.
As the auditor general said during his Pittston stopover: “Some communities have just stopped trying. (This city) shows you can do it if you’re willing to put the effort in.”