New Kensington launches downtown Sustainability Stroll

Interactive tour of downtown business district highlights sustainability goals, local businesses and history
Three men look at street sign

Tom Guzzo, mayor of New Kensington and pictured far right, works with two members of the City of New Kensington's street department to determine placement of one of five signs that comprise Penn State New Kensington's Sustainability Stroll. The interactive tour, along five blocks of Fifth Avenue in the city, links local businesses and organizations to the United Nations' Sustainability Goals and local history via unique QR codes and web links on each sign.

Credit: Rebecca Dietrich

NEW KENSINGTON, Pa. — Penn State New Kensington, in partnership with the city of New Kensington, has launched the city’s first-ever Sustainability Stroll to highlight local businesses and organizations, and history, while also connecting them to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

“The stroll is along the Corridor of Innovation, a five-block stretch of Fifth Avenue, that highlights sustainability efforts of businesses and organizations along that route between The Corner and the WCCC-New Kensington education center,” explained Ruth Herstek, associate director of academic advising and sustainability effort coordinator at the campus. “In addition, there are interesting history facts about some of the businesses and buildings along the route thanks to partnering with the Tri-City Historical Society.”

“It has been absolutely amazing. The mere presence of Penn State in our downtown has strengthened our relationships with outside agencies, enhanced and encouraged people's ideas of starting a business downtown and has helped those businesses become successful."

— Tom Guzzo, mayor of New Kensington

The stroll was made possible, in part, thanks to a previously awarded grant from the West Penn Power Sustainable Energy Fund for the campus’ reNew Kensington efforts. Individuals can walk, roll or ride along Fifth Avenue and stop at five signs to access interactive information about each block via a unique QR code or web link.

“This really is a great time to be part of the revitalization that is happening in New Kensington,” said Tom Guzzo, mayor of New Kensington. “I think the sustainability signs and the stroll serve several purposes; they provide a nice history for those who are either new to town or haven't been to downtown recently, and for those who have been in New Kensington for a long time, it provides reference points, memories and shows how these buildings have sustained and become new and flourishing businesses.”

The tour was truly a collaborative effort. The interactive web-based component of the tour was designed and created by Hong Chen, assistant professor of information sciences and technology, and several of his students. Over the past few years, student interns assisted Herstek and Alyssa Pistininzi, operations manager of the campus’ innovation hub, The Corner, in collecting business information for the tour stops. The Tri-City Historical Society provided photos and information in relation to city and building history. Guzzo and the city’s street department staff were instrumental with support and in the installation of signs.

“I am certain that people will be enlightened finding out what businesses were originally in the buildings, how the buildings have been used in other businesses in the recent past and how they have been transformed into the businesses they are currently,” added Guzzo. “It will show how New Kensington has transformed into what it is becoming by re-utilizing these buildings.”

The sustainability tour is the latest in downtown revitalization efforts and projects led by the New Kensington campus in the city. The mayor credits the ongoing collaboration between the city and campus to Kevin Snider, chancellor of Penn State New Kensington, and the University’s land grant mission.

“Dr. Snider and I began working on this partnership 12 years ago,” said Guzzo. “It has been absolutely amazing. The mere presence of Penn State in our downtown has strengthened our relationships with outside agencies, enhanced and encouraged people's ideas of starting a business downtown and has helped those businesses become successful. The Corner provides such great tools for both entrepreneurs and current businesses. The Digital Foundry at New Kensington will help people prepare for future technology positions in the workforce.

"The partnership between Penn State New Kensington and the City of New Kensington has opened new doors, allowed us to plan for the future and has made us recognized by funding groups and organizations in Western Pennsylvania who might otherwise have not known about us and our revitalization plans. I am confident that not only will our great relationship and partnership continue, but it will grow even stronger.”



Corinne Coulson

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