Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania

March 26, 2024

Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania

Laying the Foundation for Tomorrow’s Community


Setting the standard for small-town revitalization, blending community spirit with innovative urban development

Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, is a tableau of small-town charm interwoven with the threads of community and progress. At the heart of this vibrant municipality, Mayor Dr. Kenya Johns sheds light on the essence of life in Beaver Falls. According to Mayor Johns, the city combines walkable streets and intimate connections. In this place, the journey from home to the grocery store or school is not just a matter of convenience but a testament to the city’s design and ethos.

In Beaver Falls, neighborly intimacy isn’t just an ideal; it’s the fabric of everyday life. Mayor Johns emphasizes, “You get to know your neighbors… If you go into a space, you’ll probably know someone or know someone that knows someone.” As Mayor Johns describes, this interconnectedness is remarkable and essential for fostering the kind of community that beckons to future generations.

Mayor Johns also points out the city’s strides towards embracing sustainability and innovation, from going green to installing electric vehicle charging stations. These efforts are emblematic of Beaver Falls’ commitment to catching up with the times and setting new standards for what community living can be. “We’ve been very intentional at…setting the standard of what it looks like in a community,” she asserts, underlining the city’s forward-looking stance.

Reimagining Beaver Falls

In the quest to rejuvenate Beaver Falls, the city has embarked on a series of ambitious urban renewal projects to enhance walkability and foster a vibrant community spirit. City Manager Charles Jones Jr. outlines the cornerstone of these efforts: a collaborative project with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. This $50 million venture has reshaped the downtown landscape, introducing bike lanes, modernized parking configurations, state-of-the-art traffic signals, and pedestrian-friendly curb extensions.

“We built off of that momentum,” he explains, detailing the subsequent revitalization of a neglected park into a bustling hub for live music and events, further amplified by the addition of a children’s museum. These enhancements improve the city’s aesthetic and functional appeal and stimulate economic investment, drawing businesses and entrepreneurs eager to be part of Beaver Falls’ renaissance.

Parallel to these infrastructural improvements, Rochelle Burks, Director of Community Development, highlights the inventive ways the city fosters community engagement and supports local businesses. The annual chili cook-off, now in its fourth year, exemplifies this approach. By inviting residents and visitors to sample chili from 29 participating business owners for a nominal fee, the event not only showcases the culinary diversity of Beaver Falls but also capitalizes on the enhanced walkability of the downtown area. Burks shares her enthusiasm for the event’s growth and its role in highlighting the communal and economic benefits of the city’s redevelopment efforts.


Strengthening Community Ties Through Municipal Services

In the intricate weave of community revitalization, municipal services play a pivotal role in their traditional capacities and as integral threads in community engagement and development. Mayor Johns underscores the intentional efforts to bolster the capacity of municipal services while deepening community relationships.

“Our current chiefs have focused a lot on that community engagement piece,” Mayor Johns points out, highlighting the symbiotic relationship between service enhancement and community involvement. This concerted effort across different sectors illustrates a holistic vision for Beaver Falls, where growth and development are inseparable from the fabric of community engagement.

Echoing this sentiment, Burks shares insights into initiatives that exemplify the city’s commitment to hands-on community service. The partnership with the American Red Cross to provide free smoke alarm installations is a testament to the proactive stance of the Beaver Falls Fire Department. This initiative enhances public safety and strengthens the bonds between residents and emergency services through direct, impactful interaction.

Similarly, the local police department’s innovative engagement strategies, as described by Burks, transform traditional law enforcement roles into opportunities for community building. The annual block party event, in conjunction with National Night Out, fosters positive interactions between the police and the community. The image of police officers distributing ice cream at block parties across the city captures the essence of Beaver Falls’ approach to community policing—prioritizing accessibility, friendliness, and mutual respect.

Catalyzing Commercial Growth in Beaver Falls

In Beaver Falls, the narrative of commercial development is one of strategic partnerships, local empowerment, and targeted support for businesses that form the backbone of the city’s economic landscape. Jones Jr. elaborates on a landmark collaboration between the local community economic development group and Penn State’s regional innovation hubs. This partnership, which led to the acquisition of a downtown building, signifies a turning point for Beaver Falls, marking it as a hub for investment and innovation.

“They chose Beaver Falls as one of the locations they wanted to invest in,” Jones Jr. states, underscoring the significance of this selection. Introducing a yoga studio into this space, a novel concept for the downtown area exemplifies the diverse range of businesses that are beginning to see Beaver Falls as a viable and attractive location for investment.

Addressing the broader spectrum of commercial development, Jones Jr. touches on the impact of a significant industrial project in the vicinity—a $6 million Shell plant for plastics. While this development has driven industry to the area, Beaver Falls’ strategic distance from it has allowed the city to attract businesses organically. Those choose Beaver Falls for its intrinsic qualities rather than its proximity to industrial giants.

The Housing Landscape in Beaver Falls

Amid a national housing crunch, Beaver Falls presents a unique narrative reflecting the challenges and opportunities within its residential sector. Mayor Johns articulates the city’s position within the broader housing discourse, emphasizing Beaver Falls’ diverse socio-economic composition.

“We are a mixed socioeconomic community,” she notes, highlighting the city’s representation of a broad spectrum of American society, from lower socio-economic status to more affluent community members. According to Mayor Johns, this diversity presents both a challenge and an opportunity in the face of the national housing shortage.

The city experiences a unique variant of the housing squeeze, characterized by an economic boom in house purchases and renovations. “It’s big for us to have homes restored and resurfaced,” Mayor Johns asserts, pointing to the community’s enthusiasm for revitalizing its existing housing stock. This revival not only preserves the architectural heritage of Beaver Falls, with many homes dating back to the early 1900s but also revitalizes neighborhoods and enhances the city’s overall appeal.

Addressing the need for new housing developments, Mayor Johns acknowledges the geographical constraints of being a river town, which limits outward expansion. The solution, she suggests, lies in “growing the capacity to build up.” This strategic orientation towards vertical development aims to accommodate the city’s growth without sacrificing its character and spatial harmony.


Residential Revitalization

In the context of a nationwide housing crisis, Beaver Falls stands out for its innovative strategies to combat the dual challenges of housing stock shortage and affordability. Jones Jr. describes the city’s journey from having one of the highest blight issues in the area to a period of significant transformation, facilitated by strategic use of Arpa funding and collaborative projects aimed at either demolishing dilapidated properties or restoring them for residential use.

“We’re at a nice juncture of moving forward,” he states, highlighting the transition towards a more vibrant and livable city. The rezoning efforts, particularly the conversion of light industrial spaces to residential areas, exemplify Beaver Falls’ proactive stance in creating spaces that cater to the needs of its residents.

A notable success story Jones Jr. shares involves a developer investing in a previously blighted area to establish assisted living facilities, signifying a significant win for the city in converting forgotten spaces into thriving residential communities. This example underscores Beaver Falls’ efforts to revitalize its urban landscape, making it more attractive and functional for current and potential residents.

On the critical role of collaboration in achieving the city’s objectives, Mayor Johns emphasizes the importance of collective effort among various stakeholders. “It’s not just on the back of the city; it’s on the reality that we all have to pitch in and do our part,” she asserts. The mayor highlights several key partners, including the Beaver Falls Community Development Corporation (CDC), Neighborhood North, Innovation Corridor, and Community Economic Development, as instrumental in driving the city’s agenda forward.

Burks adds to the conversation by recognizing the Beaver Falls ministerium, underscoring the value of having faith leaders as cooperative partners. This collective approach to urban development and housing revitalization reflects a broader understanding that sustainable change requires the involvement of multiple sectors and entities working together towards common goals.

Shaping Beaver Falls’ Future

As Beaver Falls embarks on a pivotal year, the city’s leadership team outlines a series of ambitious priorities that promise to propel the community into a future marked by sustainability, engagement, and inclusive growth. Jones Jr. zeroes in on the financial health of Beaver Falls, emphasizing the importance of achieving economic sustainability.

The appointment of a chief financial officer marks a significant step towards this goal, with an eye on enhancing service delivery to the public. “Making sure that we have financial stability and sustainability moving forward,” he articulates, highlighting a foundational priority supporting the city’s broader ambitions.

Burks, focusing on community development, outlines a multifaceted agenda to bolster community spirit and civic engagement. The continuation of signature events such as Cinco de Mayo, Juneteenth, and a fall festival underscores a commitment to cultural celebration and community bonding. Introducing a junior councilperson program also signifies a forward-thinking approach to nurturing young leaders and fostering early political engagement.

Mayor Johns amplifies these priorities with a broad vision encompassing community capacity building, housing, and infrastructural development. Her emphasis on cultivating community spirit and pride speaks to the heart of Beaver Falls’ identity, envisioning a city where residents feel a deep sense of belonging and investment in their community. The mayor’s focus on housing, bolstered by recent legislative successes, addresses a critical need for accessible home improvement programs for middle-class residents.

As Beaver Falls looks ahead, the leadership’s priorities for 2024 reflect a comprehensive strategy that integrates financial prudence, community engagement, environmental sustainability, and housing accessibility. This concerted effort promises to address immediate challenges and lay a robust foundation for the city’s future, steering Beaver Falls towards a vision where growth and community spirit go hand in hand, crafting a vibrant, inclusive, and sustainable city for all its residents.


Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania 

What: A feature on the city’s comprehensive approach to revitalization, sustainability, and community engagement



Beaver County Corporation for Economic Development –

Neighborhood North Museum of Play –

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