Erie Refocused looks to better the city


Guess what, Gannon. I’m back on my “Erie is awesome” soap box.
As part of the “Thriving and Surviving in Uncertain Times” series, Kathy Wyrosdick, director of the Erie County Planning Department, presented last week on Erie Refocused, the city’s first comprehensive plan in 50 years.
As Wyrosdick said, one of the greatest benefits of Erie Refocused, which was constructed by CZB, LLC, is that it will give the city a baseline to compare its efforts to in the years to come.
The plan was created after CZB completed a deep dive analysis of the city and its housing stock.
The plan offers recommendations on how to manage the post-industrial city’s population loss, properly use investments, and responsibly deploy resources like grant money.
Erie Refocused emphasizes strengthening both downtown and surrounding neighborhoods and stabilizing the outskirts of the city.
The plan, which can be downloaded off the city’s website, is presented in a readable format and breaks ideas down into the simplest way, even including DOs and DO NOTs for the city to follow.
Rather than being a traditional comprehensive plan, Erie Refocused is also presented as a decision-making guide for city officials.
Because I’m a public policy junkie, I had already read through the comprehensive plan this past summer, and I can support Wyrosdick’s claim that this plan is a smooth read even for those of us who aren’t city planners by profession.
Regardless of the fact that the printed version of the plan rocks, many would claim it doesn’t do much good if the city isn’t working to implement it, a fear I even had myself.
After Wyrosdick’s presentation, however, it was clear this isn’t the case at all, and Erie Refocused is already coming alive.
To me, one of the most interesting parts of Wyrosdick’s presentation was hearing about the “war room” where stakeholders have been meeting to discuss how to implement the plan.
Using post-it notes and a giant printed map of the core of the city — the downtown — Wyrosdick and her team were able to identify where investment was occurring, where policy was affecting individuals and where changes needed to occur.
She cited that many of these meetings were standing room only, and individuals present were encouraged to speak freely about their opinions on current and future concerns.
Wyrosdick noted that at times the war room could be a frustrating place, but individuals found a way to put their differences aside to keep moving toward a common end goal.
In our one-on-one conversation after her presentation, she gave me the insider tip that if things started to get heated, there was always a way to bring people back to the center — candy.
Did you hear that, Hershey? I think I found a great cause for you to sponsor.

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