To most living here it may seem impossible to think, could Grove City someday be the better version of Cranberry? While Cranberry Township in Butler County is a great area, it is busting at the seams. It’s hard to believe that only a few decades ago, Cranberry was just farms and fields, and seemingly overnight became one of the fastest growing communities in Pennsylvania. International corporations have moved their headquarters there (Westinghouse) and nearly every restaurant, store and hotel has opened. Butler County’s low taxes and cost of living have brought massive housing developments and apartment complexes to the township, making it a nice contrast to those not wanting to put up with Pittsburgh and Allegheny County’s high taxes. However, some who live there find it hard to call “home.” Many have even moved to Grove City to enjoy what Cranberry lacks: a sense of community, historic charm and a small-town atmosphere.
While in Cranberry you have easy access to nearly every store and restaurant imaginable, there’s no walk-able neighborhoods or quaint main street. Grove City is unique in that we have Olde Town, but just 3 miles away we also have the Outlet Mall area and 6.5 million tourists, which provides many of the benefits that Cranberry has, but in a much smaller and manageable scale.
Before the recession hit in 2008, Grove City was poised for a housing boom. The Legends of Grove City opened at the Country Club, and other housing developments were in the planning stages in Liberty and Pine Township. While Grove City’s housing market made it through the recession fairly well, it slowed down and even put a stop to some of these developments.
Going forward, the question is do we want to become the new Cranberry, or better yet, do we want to become the better version of Cranberry? To do this right will take thoughtful planning, both in town and around the outlet mall. The outlet area is already trying to make up for a lack of planning which has lead to not having enough water, stunting growth considerably. No sidewalks were initially put in to connect the hotels and restaurants to the outlets, now the area is looking to grants to construct sidewalks. This could go a long way to making a more attractive and walkable area. In town we should first focus on attracting those who are capable of restoring our existing housing stock, plus the continued revitalization of Olde Town, and bringing new businesses that would help grow existing small businesses instead of shutting them down. More thoughtful planning may also require that new buildings use better materials, signage and landscaping. With tourism being a huge part of the growth in our area, requiring that new buildings be attractive is appropriate. Other high tourist areas will often create a list of building materials that will create a cohesive neighborhood that has distinctive aesthetic character that complements existing historic structures.
Grove City’s potential is limitless as tourism continues to bring millions of visitors. As a region, we need to be working today to create the community we want in 5, 10 and 50 years, and that will take a lot of planning.