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By Steve Bishop
An Erie architectural firm has been hired by nonprofit organization Union City Pride to create conceptual drawings for the “gateway” to Union City downtown, an area that includes the former Union City Dinor.
Union City Pride’s board of directors recently approved hiring Bostwick Design Partnership, which submitted one of five proposals received by the mid-December deadline. Bostwick was selected after follow-up interviews by representatives of Union City Pride, Union City Borough, the Union City Community Foundation, and Preservation Erie, a nonprofit historical preservation organization that has consulted with Union City on this and other recent downtown initiatives. Bostwick is being contracted to create three separate visions of what the gateway to Union City’s downtown could look like. The gateway consists of three corners of the Main Street-High Street intersection.
Those corners include the small green space known as “Industrial Park” on the northwest corner of the intersection across West High Street from the former dinor. It also includes the former dinor and the adjacent brick building on Main Street, which were both purchased by Union City Pride in September with funding from the Union City Community Foundation. The vision will also incorporate suggested improvement to the borough-owned staircase between the rear of the dinor and nearby Salvation Army store. The staircase leads down to the municipal parking lot along French Creek.
And finally, the vision will include the southeast corner of the intersection, anchored by Ace Hardware, which has already seen recent façade improvements.
Bostwick Design Partnership is being asked to create three different conceptual drawings for the downtown gateway. Because it’s not yet known if the former dinor building can be salvaged and reused, Union City Pride has asked for two concepts that include removing the dinor building, and one that includes its reuse if deemed feasible. The concepts for removing the dinor include replacing it with a new building, or replacing it with an open-air deck or patio connected to the adjacent brick building.
The third concept requested of Bostwick includes either a reuse of the former dinor, if it’s deemed salvageable, or an entirely different concept of the architect’s choosing if the dinor is not considered salvageable. An important part of that consideration is whether the former dinor can meet accessibility compliance under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
If the former dinor can’t be salvaged, the request for proposal asks that whatever replaces it “pays homage” to the dinor in the redesign. Public input will be sought as the planning process unfolds over the spring and summer.
David Brennan, architect and director of Bostwick’s Erie office, said he and his office are excited for the opportunity. “The Union City downtown gateway initiative is a vital step to establishing a northern entrance into Union City’s commercial district and to spark community support for future development,” he said. “We are inspired by the community’s mission to bolster pride and celebrate the heritage of Union City with the belief that the power of space can positively impact lives. “The initiative is a perfect example of the positive change gaining momentum in our region,” Brennan continued. “We are excited by the opportunity to partner with Union City Pride on this journey to achieve the community’s vision and create a transformational project that inspires future development, strengthens the historic downtown, and supports the local economy and community.
” Those involved in the process on Union City’s behalf are equally enthusiastic about the upcoming initiative.
“These are exciting times for Union City,” said Dave Nothum, president of Union City Pride’s board of directors. “A lot of changes have taken place recently that improve the image of Union City’s Main Street. This gateway project will bring focus to that activity.” “We are really excited to work with Dave Brennan and his team to see what designs they present,” added Union City Borough Secretary-Treasurer Cindy Wells. “This is such an important project and could really change the future for Union City.”
The design contract of up to $36,660 is being paid for from a $258,000 “Shaping Tomorrow” grant Union City Pride was awarded by the Erie Community Foundation in 2019. While no funds are yet in place to carry out whatever vision is created, those involved say it’s important to have a vision in place for the time those implementation funds do become available. “We are excited to begin the design process of our Union City downtown gateway,” said Steve Jones, chairman of the Union City.
Community Foundation’s board of directors. “This project is just one of the many wonderful transformational projects that are taking place in our community. “The dinor has been a cornerstone building that has anchored our community for a long time, but it’s also a tired, deteriorating building that has been severely neglected for over 20 years,” Jones continued. “The idea is to design and create an anchor building that is eye pleasing, purposeful, and will instill pride in our community.”
Jones noted the dinor and adjacent brick building sit on a relatively small footprint, and are being looked at in the design initiative as one combined property with multiple potential uses. He said questions include how the two buildings could be incorporated together, how the buildings can anchor the gateway, what it would look like, what are the potential uses, and more. “We have too many unanswered questions and we are looking to the experts in the architectural and design field,” he said.
“Bostwick Design Partnership was the logical and best choice for this type of specialized project. “The design process will include structural assessments, renderings, and cost estimates,” Jones concluded. “The idea is to see possibilities and alternatives that may exist. During the design process the Union City community will have time to see ideas, understand the project, and provide public awareness.”