Who Are We?
Since 2001, Our Town Foundation (OTF) has existed as Hamburg’s Main Street program, established through the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Non-profit and volunteer-driven, this organization’s mission is to revitalize, promote, and preserve downtown historic Hamburg for our families and future generations to enjoy. Our program is designed to improve all aspects of downtown Hamburg through beautification, promotion, and economic vitality.
Over the past 18 years, the Foundation has become an extremely diverse organization that is reaching out to all facets of the Hamburg Community in an effort to maintain and further enhance this already very special place. The organization evolved from its early beginnings of being a downtown Main Street Revitalization Organization into a full-fledged Community Revitalization Corporation (CRC), expanding its efforts into several areas of the community.
Our Town Foundation administers six programs under the umbrella organization: The downtown Main Street Program, Taste of Hamburg-er Festival, Hamburg Area Arts Alliance, Hamburg Strand Theater, The Blueprint Community Program/Heritage Towns and Tours, and the Southgate Neighborhood Revitalization. This requires partnerships with other organizations and numerous community volunteers to ensure that our revitalization efforts stretch throughout the entire borough and nearby areas.
Communities that are most successful are those that have grasped the concept that revitalization is not a project with a beginning and an end. It never ends. Just as sound management of any business remains imperative after its startup, the ongoing management of community revitalization projects is essential to economic stability and quality of life.
Our vision of Hamburg is one of vibrant streets adorned with restored historic buildings filled with shops, restaurants, and professional services. The town will build on and prosper from the abundant natural, cultural, and historic resources within the community.
Hamburg will once again be the premier location in Northern Berks to shop, dine, and be entertained.
Downtowns are the heart of a community; they are symbolic of a district’s economy, quality of life, and public pride. People believe what they see – whether it be inquiring home buyers, prospective businesses, or tourists. Successful downtowns also provide incentive for all current residents to remain – a thriving business district, natural recreational opportunities, and a strong educational program are the key components to a flourishing community. Having the main street as the demonstrative core of a community’s health also helps to protect area property values.
Revitalization is nonstop, it never ends. Those that came before us started it all with a quest for a better life back in the late 1700s; Our Town Foundation is continuing that quest into the 21st century. Quality of life is what separates successful towns from declining communities.
Why the Whole Historic Theme?
Hamburg has a lot of history, often overlooked because of the lack of majesty and might that bigger cities present. Its location obviously delegates some importance, being located right along the Schuylkill River. No matter the mode of transportation – canal, railroad, or truck – Hamburg has always been in the center. There were over a dozen industries in town, at one point granting Hamburg the honor of having more jobs per capita than anywhere else in the country. The downtown stores were often family owned, each business having a distinct function in society. Blocks of homes proved Hamburg to be a productive community – one where you could live, work, and shop.
In that short history lesson, we learned a lot: we must preserve the town’s architecture by utilizing the now vacant industrial buildings and restoring the originality of its historic homes. How else can future generations understand where Hamburg came from and how it got to where it is at now?
We can use the past to inspire the present.
Source of Funds
Our Town Foundation relies on support from borough funding, business and resident memberships/donations, fundraisers, local organizational support, grants, event sponsorships, and volunteerism.
Improved image, co-op advertising, expanded customer base from increased promotions and marketing, greater pride in having a business in a safe, clean, and visually appealing atmosphere, networking opportunities and educational opportunities through workshops and events
Improved accessibility to goods/services, more social/cultural activities, increase in home values, opportunities for volunteerism and leadership development
Stable/higher rents, increased occupancy, improved property marketability, new uses for existing buildings
Promote the general welfare of the Hamburg Community. Increased sales/property tax base, impetus for public improvements and enhancements, ability to obtain grant funds that are only available to non-profits, informational source for visitors/residents
Expanded customer base, greater loan potential, community reinvestment mandate fulfillment
The Downtown Main Street Program
Revitalizes, promotes, and preserves downtown historic Hamburg for our families and future generations to enjoy by preserving the historic charm of Hamburg while also remaining competitive in today’s market.
Hamburg Area Arts Alliance
Supports and showcases local artists while also advancing the awareness of arts in the community. In 2006, HAAA opened the Art & Craft Gallery, providing an affordable way for local artists to display and sell their artwork. In addition, The Alliance hosts many arts related events such as Artdrenaline Youth Camp, Hamburg Hoopla Music Fest, art classes, and featured artists events.
Hamburg Strand Theater
In 2013, Our Town Foundation purchased the Hamburg Strand Theater in an effort to preserve and protect the building as a major asset and attraction within our community. This historic property, originally built in 1799, was one of the first properties to be built when the town was laid out. The property was converted into a theater in 1920. After investing over $200,000 in improvements and renovations, The Strand is once again a thriving community hub.
Taste of Hamburg-er Festival
Supports a broad range of stakeholders within the community, while serving as a major fundraiser for Our Town Foundation. The event, which attracts approximately 40,000 people to the downtown, has been growing since its inception in 2004 and is now named one of the top twelve unique festivals in PA!
Blueprint Community/Heritage Towns and Tours
Provides knowledge, education, and opportunities for social, economical and recreational growth in the Borough of Hamburg. The team consists of representatives from numerous local organizations and businesses that all seek improvements for the entire borough.
Southgate Neighborhood Revitalization
Aims to sustain an enticing neighborhood that offers a higher quality of life through community ownership, to encourage and stimulate growth and prosperity while maintaining the historical integrity and beauty of the neighborhood setting, and to instill a sense of rebirth and pride amongst those residing in the neighborhood.
OTF received $3,763,578 in grant funding since its inception
Greened/improved three borough owned parking lots, new sidewalks and curbing, traffic lights, street signs, benches, trash receptacles, American flags, Hometown Heroes banners, holiday decorations
Purchased the Hamburg Strand Theater to save it from its demise, purchased the State Street Square lot to be used for community events, completed trail links from the downtown to the park, obtained funding to improve the trail system, installed canoe docks at community park, created a community garden, planted several native wildlife gardens, painted four large murals in town, organizes/hosts numerous events (Taste of Hamburg-er Festival, Hamburg Hoopla, Artdrenaline Day Camp, Brew Fest, etc.)
Completed an Affordable Housing Program assisting homeowners with necessary improvements, obtained grant funding for the Sr. Housing on Pine St., provided funding for façade improvements (both residential and commercial)
Marketing/Promoting the Town
Received National Historic District designation, created and continue to maintain the hamburgpa.org website, designed, printed and distributed several promotional brochures for the area, distributes community event information through social media and community calendar postings
How to Support Your Community
- Shop locally
- Volunteer for events and other activities
- Serve on a committee
- Support the program financially
- Make suggestions for improvements
- Inform the borough representatives and neighboring representatives of the importance of their continued support
- Share your knowledge of the program with others