Gettysburg Elm St Breckenridge Sketch


Many larger US cities have well known districts that boast a distinct personality and vibe. There are the nationally known examples like Chinatown, Cannery Row, the French Quarter, and Pikes Place. But other small American towns and cities have embraced the concept, latching onto a wild array of distinctions to celebrate.

Districts can serve many purposes from community building and civic engagement to simply making your maps and wayfinding easier to comprehend for first time visitors. Consider the multitude of NODOs and LODOs; the East, West, North, or South Sides; the Uptowns, the Midtowns; the Bakery, Meat Packing, Shipping, and Brewery Districts; the Bayfront, Riverfront, and Waterfront; and the ever elusive Arts District. Whatever they are known for, these districts enhance the overall experience within the larger region.

Closer to home, where you may question the viability of districts within the average Pennsylvania community, let’s consider these examples:

  • The Healthcare District in Greensburg (being featured at the upcoming PDC conference in June)
  • Gallery Row in Lancaster (which you can visit if you attend the PDC conference in June)
  • The Third Ward in Gettysburg
  • The West End Theatre District in Allentown

As part of an already successful and larger community, these districts too have made a name for themselves within the larger community context.

If your community has the desire, vision, and operational plan in place to do the same, what are the physical elements you need to consider to move forward?

In Lancaster, the concentration of art galleries and the proximity of the Pennsylvania College of Art and Design could be enough. But capturing the edge of a corner property and creating a long, narrow, but larger billboard of sorts clearly announces Gallery Row.

In Gettysburg, an already much-visited borough for Civil War enthusiasts, some truly authentic historic sites are found in the less visited Third Ward, which is home to the largest concentration of Witness Homes in the borough.

Gettysburg Elm St Breckenridge Sketch

Lastly, in Allentown, the Great Allentown Fairgrounds and the historic 19th Street Theatre anchor a terrific and very special part of the city. Here, great effort went into defining this district through design elements, streetscape enhancements, and even a distinct logo and branding package.

Allentown Fair Gate

Is there a district in your community or in your future? Let us know ~ we’d love to visit or talk about it!