M id A tlantic Real Estate Journal — Pennsylvania — June 8 - 21, 2018 — 5C


P ennsylvania By Pamela J. Shupp, AICP, CEcD, Greater Reading Economic Partnership Housing and lifestyle are business and talent attraction tools for Greater Reading, PA


verall economic data for the Greater Read- ing, PA community

the thousands of people they employ; professionals who work, play and increasingly want to live in the same area. The community is also one of the more walkable com- munities in Greater Reading, making it a destination for shoppers and family strolls. From bustling restaurants and bars, to mom & pop shops and a successful farm- ers market, West Reading ex- emplifies the lifestyle sought by so many young profes- sionals. Two new major residen- tial buildings are currently

planned or under construc- tion. The Lofts at Narrow will feature 95 well-appoint- ed rental units -- one/two- bedroom apartments com- plete with a rooftop pool and Etch Fitness on the ground floor. The former Arrow In- ternational Building at 1001 Hill Avenue is also planned to be converted into a 92-unit high end residential build- ing. Anchored between these projects is the VF Outlets redevelopment underway by Equus Partners, turning the 34-acre site into an office and retail campus that will serve

as the headquarters of UGI Energy Services. West Reading represents one of the most dynamic growth communi t ies in Greater Reading, attracting new residents and sustain- ing a successful commercial corridor. It’s the catalyst in our efforts to attract new talent and revitalize our community. West Reading demonstrates that Greater Reading Berks can provide the amenities that young professionals look for when interested in employment opportunities.

So, what does the West Reading growth mean for Greater Reading? It means that we get to promote our community as a point of destination for young pro- fessionals and talent, and companies that seek the elu- sive live/work/play amenity. All available right here, in Greater Reading. Pamela J. Shupp, AICP, CEcD is responsible for managing the economic development strategy for the Greater Reading Economic Partnership (GREP). 

is very posi- t i v e : o u r 3.8 percent GDP growth in 2016 led all counties in Pennsyl- vani a and p l a c e d u s 43rd in the

Pamela J. Shupp

nation in terms of growth. The Greater Reading unem- ployment rate, which stands at 4.2 percent, is at its low- est point in decades. Low unemployment, however, means competition for skilled workers will increase – a situation not unique to PA communities. Also, for the first time ever, the greatest business chal- lenge cited by business lead- ers this year was “finding/ hiring professional/mana- gerial employees.” In past surveys, “finding technical skilled workers” has been a top concern – it ranked fourth this year behind “find- ing new customers” and “managing costs”. Three of the top five concerns involved sourcing of labor, but top among them has become finding higher-level man- agement employees. So, we started evaluating some of the whys, starting with - is there a correlation between new housing starts and this need for more professional workers? We think so. Existing housing inventory in Berks County is low, and high-end rental units are difficult to find especially with desirable amenities. There are especially very few options available to the millennial demographic. If talent attraction/retention of young professionals is a top challenge identified by our businesses and a key economic development strat- egy for our community, what is the answer? Enter West Reading. To be clear, the West Read- ing community is not only for millennials. There is a clear mixed demographic span- ning a wide spectrum of both age and income. The success and vibrancy of West Read- ing’s commercial corridor along Penn Avenue is a draw for many. West Reading is anchored by the growing Tower Health System and



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