OP-ED: Pondering a history campus in York


I've recently re-read "Pondering Change," York County Heritage Trust's appeal to the community for input regarding their future. If you haven't seen it, you've missed an opportunity to weigh in on something vitally important for our county.

The trust, like similar institutions nationwide, is facing serious cultural and economic challenges, and to their credit, have been working diligently to secure a sustainable future so that they can continue to inspire the exploration of the history, people and culture of our county, and so we as York countians don't lose what is truly precious: our heritage.

They've given serious consideration to numerous scenarios, each outlining a future for their buildings, collections and the organization, and as I re-read "Pondering Change," one of these scenarios seems to stand out above the rest.

The consolidation of their property into one expanded campus in the heart of downtown York makes sense on a number of fronts. Now, I realize that choosing this option will make our work at Downtown Inc a little easier, but hear me out:

Having a centralized York County History Center located in the nucleus of our downtown will create a catalytic impact on our revitalization efforts, much the same way Central Market, Santander Stadium, Susquehanna Commerce Center, and the Strand-Capitol have. Strong, healthy anchor destinations play a critical role in stabilizing and stimulating growth in business districts.

As we work to improve the landscape along the Codorus Creek, and improve and extend the Heritage Rail Trail (note the name "Heritage"), locating a History Center along the trail creates a symbiotic destination for local residents and tourists.

Today's consumers want multi-faceted experiences. The development of a History Center Campus near our Rail Trail in the heart of a vibrant downtown with unique shops, restaurants, and cultural offerings will undoubtedly draw more visitors to downtown York, securing a healthy future for the Heritage Trust and creating spillover economic impact on our downtown retail and restaurant businesses.

The creation of a linear campus along the Codorus Creek and the Heritage Rail Trail in the heart of our downtown that provides interactive educational experiences that illustrate York's history, our stories, will have immeasurable impact on our sense of place and pride, and serve to economically advance our downtown, our city and our county.

— Sonia Huntzinger is the executive director of Downtown Inc, the organization that works to enhance and encourage investment in downtown York.