HARRISBURG – Testifiers praised recent changes to the Downtown Location Law during a Senate Urban Affairs & Housing Committee hearing on Wednesday.
Committee Chairman Senator David G. Argall (R-29) championed a measure signed into law last year that requires greater coordination between state agencies and community organizations to ensure more state offices are located in downtown areas.
“The original goal of the law was to increase commerce and spur private-sector job growth in downtown areas throughout the commonwealth, and many revitalization advocates would agree that the law has had the intended effect,” Argall said. “Given the importance of this law as a revitalization tool for local communities, it is important to ensure lawmakers are doing their part to strengthen and improve the law to provide the maximum benefit for state residents.”
Argall, who authored the original Downtown Location Law in 2000, invited testimony from Department of General Services Secretary (DGS) Sheri Phillips and Pennsylvania Downtown Center Executive Director Bill Fontana regarding the importance of the law and the effect of recent legislative improvements.
“We remain supportive of the Downtown Location Act to maintain and increase the economic viability of our communities who are experiencing the same economic slowdown being felt across the Commonwealth,” Secretary Phillips said. “We applaud Chairman Argall for all the work he has done for maintaining and revitalizing Pennsylvania downtowns and business districts, and we look forward to continuing to work with him and others on this important initiative.”
“I would like to thank the Chairman for making the downtowns of the Commonwealth a priority when it comes to locational decisions made by the Department of General Services,” Fontana said. “We believe that the Commonwealth should and must be a partner in the economic and physical revitalization of our core communities. The opportunity to confer with the local revitalization program should provide DGS with much needed input to assist them with making these locational decisions.”
Secretary Phillips added that efficiency measures undertaken in DGS have helped cut the amount of unneeded leased space by 450,000 square feet for an annual savings of $7.6 million.
Secretary Phillips and Fontana each urged members of the committee to explore ways to provide greater flexibility for DGS and the Pennsylvania Downtown Center in making a final determination regarding the location of offices and most appropriate use of state-owned real estate.