A York County story: Sprawl leaves problems in its wake
York Little Theatre moved to the former Elmwood Theater, its current location, in 1953. This photo was taken after renovations to the Belmont Street building in the 1960s. YLT celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2008. Background posts: Bomb group seeks Cameron Mitchell’s WWII info and Add another to list of entertainers with York links and Former Hobbit House resident: ‘We loved that house and the Elmwood neighborhood’.
It’s a quirky little area, Spring Garden Township’s Belmont Street.
It’s sandwiched in there between and around the Elmwood Mansion and two Interstate 83 interchanges.
Melvin’s, a hamburger stand and popular hangout, was nearby, before the interstate knocked that down.
Indeed, the interstate helped redefine the neighborhood.
In recent years, it’s become lost, as retail, entertainment and residential options have moved farther out.
A York Daily Record/Sunday News editorial (1/09/09) used Belmont Street as an example of what happens to an area that sprawl leaves behind:
The aftereffects of unchecked suburban sprawl are becoming increasingly evident in York County.
As fertile farmland is converted into an outer ring of growth, a non-productive inner ring is cropping up.
It’s not just the City of York that is left behind as the county’s population seeks greener pastures.
Belmont Street in Spring Garden Township is an example of a former outer-ring neighborhood that is now a challenged inner ring.
Occasionally, two homeless men stand at the corner where the street meets East Market.
They hold signs that state they need work.
Their usual post is on the corner that used to be home to a Sunoco gas station, which closed a while ago, leaving behind a vacant building and an empty parking lot.
Several other vacant buildings line the once-thriving road between Market Street and the Interstate 83 ramps.
York Little Theatre is a remaining bright spot, its marquee standing out among the empty storefronts.
Across the street is Jamie’s Courtside Sports and Spirits, the scene of a bar fight ending in the stabbing death of a 22-year-old man on Dec. 30.
Homelessness. Vacant buildings. Violence.
A few years ago, this strip of Spring Garden, tucked between Springettsbury Township and the city, seemed to be a safe, bustling area.
And to be fair, the neighboring area along East Market Street still is packed with ongoing businesses.
That Belmont Street neighborhood will always gain some traffic — and thus business opportunities — given its proximity to Market Street and Interstate 83.
But the march away continues.
Soon, Memorial Hospital — a few blocks away from York Little Theatre — will move to the west end. And although it’s unknown how much, if any, of the hospital’s operations will stay behind, the move will likely take traffic and potential revenue for prospective business owners with it.
So what’s the answer?
Smart growth authority on the county and local level would help outer-ring municipalities address sprawl.
Inner ring suburbs can gain strength against blight through pooling resources and outright consolidation of municipal services.
Too many of our 72 municipalities for too long have treated consolidation as an option.
They’ve treated the City of York and its many attributes as a problem instead of an opportunity to link arms.
York County is long past the point of municipal officials — and developers — going their own ways.
The Belmont streetscape attests to that.
To see comments about the Belmont Street area or to join in the conversation, click here.