Tamaqua, Pennsylvania – Schuylkill County

June 27, 2024

Tamaqua, Pennsylvania

The City With a ‘Can Do Attitude’


Collaboration, vitality, and a dynamic future to embrace

The story of Tamaqua is one of revitalization, collaboration, and what Mayor Nathan Gerace describes as “a can-do attitude.”  Tucked into the eastern region of Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, the Borough of Tamaqua was once a thriving coal town that faced the challenges of economic decline in the 1950s and has continued to reinvent itself to meet the needs of a modern population.

A Community on the Rise

Midway through his second term as Mayor, at the age of 26, Gerace exemplifies the enthusiastic and forward-thinking attitude that is helping to bring continued vibrancy to the borough. “Tamaqua has done particularly well at bouncing back, and revitalization is the name of the game,” he shares. “When you look at a lot of the things that have happened around our community, especially over the last 20 years, you’ve seen a great boom in economic development, in revitalization. We are an ideal example of small-town America.” With a population of 7,000 people, Tamaqua is surrounded by the townships of West Penn, Rush, Schuylkill, and Walker, drawing larger numbers into the community for shopping and entertainment amenities.


Downtown Renaissance

Central to Tamaqua’s renewal efforts is its vibrant downtown core, which underwent a remarkable transformation several years ago with the implementation of a streetscape project, creating a more walkable area for residents and visitors. Mayor Gerace describes, “Small business is what we push, we’re not a popular area for chain restaurants or any big corporate businesses. Downtown is surviving and thriving off of small business.”

Visitors strolling through the heart of the community will encounter an eclectic mix of establishments, from antique stores and boutiques to pizzerias and tattoo parlors, along with essential services like hair salons and banks. The recent addition of two new microbreweries, Stoker’s Brewing Company and Revere Brewery, further enhanced the appeal, along with the introduction of a grocery store to the area.

Amidst all of this, the Tamaqua Community Arts Center offers a space where artistic endeavors and community engagement go hand in hand. Gerace recounts, “The Arts Center has been a beacon of revitalization. It was an old church that they’ve now turned into an art studio that hosts concerts, plays, arts and crafts. They even do yoga classes there.”  He further highlights the efforts of Lisa Sheller, who originated the idea behind Hope and Coffee, a café employing addicts in the early stages of recovery. “It allows them to get back into the workforce, get back in the swing of things. The overall goal is to get them on their feet and get them into a better-paying job in the workforce,” he explains. “That’s just been a wonderful addition to the community. It’s a beautiful coffee shop.”  The Bischoff Inn, a boutique hotel in a beautifully restored building, has been newly established in the core, bringing charming accommodations to the downtown landscape.

Economic Development Efforts

Much of this growth and resurgence can be attributed to economic development initiatives like the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) program and the Community Revitalization and Improvement Zone (C.R.I.Z.) that Tamaqua has leveraged to breathe new life into the area. However, Dan Evans, Chairman of the Tamaqua C.R.I.Z. Authority acknowledges that the impact can be traced back two decades or more, to the Tamaqua Area Community Partnership. He conveys, “The partnership has a big role in what you see up and down Broad Street, it’s stopped some of the decay and began to reverse that process that we saw when coal ended. 20 years ago, they began to lay out a variety of strategies for the community, things like downtown revitalization.” Along with the Tamaqua Chamber of Commerce, Evans says the borough is supported by regional entities such as the Schuylkill County Chamber, Northeast Pennsylvania Alliance, and Wilkes University Small Business Development Group, adding, “There’s a whole list of people behind what happens here, it just depends on what your area of interest or expertise is, as to where you fall in line in that list.”

He asserts that while initiatives like the C.R.I.Z. programs have provided additional tools for progress, much of the rejuvenation has stemmed from the dedicated work of these organizations, along with strong support from former State Representative Jerry Knowles, current State Representative Jamie Barton, Senator Dave Argall, and Congressman Dan Meuser. “A lot of these things have been developing over time,” Evans admits. “In 2014, we were selected to be the pilot borough in a tax incentive financing program. That was another tool in the bag, where we were able to use some of the taxes collected here in support of all those different planks in the downtown restoration, and economic development programs. C.R.I.Z. has been an extra tool in the bag, to fight blight in the downtown business community, and to make Tamaqua a better place to live and to work.”


Aerial view of Main Street, in Shrewsbury, Pennsylvania.

Investing in Infrastructure

As Tamaqua celebrates its downtown revitalization, it also recognizes the importance of investing in infrastructure and initiating projects such as the $19 million in upgrades to the sewer treatment facility. “Within the next couple of years, we’re going to see a massive renovation of our sewage treatment plant. That’s a testament to the sewage treatment plant workers and operators, Borough Council who was able to work to get this funding in the door, and thanks to our state representative and state senator, and as well the governor for getting us that critical funding to get the project done,” asserts the mayor.

On the residential side, Tamaqua remains committed to addressing housing needs, through initiatives like the Upper Storey Revitalization Project, a pilot program through the state, aimed at repurposing existing buildings for mixed residential and commercial use. “Tamaqua doesn’t necessarily have the acreage for new housing developments that some other places might, but all of our main streets throughout town are made up of multi-storey buildings. So, you may have a pizza shop downstairs and the upstairs is vacant,” Gerace relays. “This pilot program provides funding for the upper story revitalization, which will allow private business owners to take advantage of state grant dollars so that they can turn it into market-rate housing.”

Gerace proudly shares that the community will also be welcoming a new police station to house the 9 full-time and 8 part-time members of the force. He boasts, “In an era where you’re seeing a lot of communities lose their policing, Tamaqua has been growing strong. This project will be a beacon in the downtown. Not only is it going to be a new police station, but it’s also going to be a new community center.”

The Tamaqua Police Force exemplifies community strength and safety, and officers engage proactively with residents, fostering trust and cooperation. “They are making sure that they are walking the streets, stopping at the playgrounds and playing basketball with the kids, spending the extra minute to talk to a kid that may or may not be going through something. Those are all important factors that have taken place,” says Gerace, remarking that through these efforts the community has experienced a 42% reduction in violent crime over the past decade.

 Looking Ahead

As Tamaqua moves towards a vibrant and dynamic future, the focus remains on ensuring a supportive environment for small businesses and attracting new investments. On the economic development side, Evans says the attention is on the reinvention of a beloved 1874 Victorian Train Station, currently a restaurant. He elaborates, “The property was renovated approximately 20 years ago, and it is starting to show its age. So, by the fall, we will have a new roof on that building to ensure its future is the centerpiece of the community. It was honored in March of last year by the United States Postal Service with a commemorative stamp. We take a lot of pride in that project, and it has certainly made Tamaqua more of a destination for people because of the dining experience in the Victorian setting.”

For Mayor Gerace the attention is also on attracting new enterprises. “We want to encourage new businesses to make their way into Tamaqua, to see that it’s a thriving community. It’s flourishing with great residents, people who are spending time downtown, spending their money here. If somebody’s interested in being a small business owner, there’s no better place to invest than Tamaqua.”


Tamaqua, Pennsylvania

What: A community of 7,00 experiencing a vibrant revitalization

Where: Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania

Website: www. tamaquaborough.com


CRIZ Authority – https://www.tamaquaborough.com/

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