Diamond City Partnership Releases Results of Recent Survey

By Jayne Ann Bugda | jbugda@pahomepage.com

Published 08/08 2014 01:36AM

Updated 08/08 2014 12:12PM

The Diamond City Partnership (DCP), Wilkes-Barre’s
downtown management organization, today released the results of its 2014 Downtown Wilkes-
Barre Perception & Use Survey.

The Survey was administered online from April 25 to May 31, 2014. More than 1,000 people
took the survey, with 825 people taking the time to complete the survey in its entirety. 40% of
survey respondents work in Downtown, 20% attend college in Downtown, and 11% live in
Downtown. The remaining 29% either visit Downtown for other reasons – or they rarely or never
come Downtown.

Downtown Wilkes-Barre’s key constituents agree that Downtown is headed in the right direction:

• All respondents: 51% right direction; 31% neutral; 18% wrong direction

• Downtown residents: 66% right direction; 28% neutral; 6% wrong direction

• Downtown moviegoers: 60% right direction; 27% neutral; 13% wrong direction

• Kirby Center attendees: 62% right direction; 25% neutral; 13% wrong direction

• Downtown workers: 56% right direction; 32% neutral; 13% wrong direction

The survey shows that dining and entertainment have become major draws pulling people to
Downtown Wilkes-Barre, with 66% of all respondents reporting visiting Downtown specifically
to eat in the past year, and 56% reporting visiting downtown to see a movie in the past year.
Several of the Downtown destinations now most frequently visited by survey respondents, such
as Downtown’s Restaurant Row; Movies 14; Barnes & Noble; or the River Common, simply did
not exist ten years ago.

The survey makes it clear that Downtown’s growing residential population is key to
revitalization. Downtown residents utilize downtown businesses and attractions at much higher
levels than do other constituent groups. For example, 57% of Downtown residents report that they
regularly visit the River Common, compared to 21% of Downtown workers.

Events provide another way to introduce visitors to what Downtown Wilkes-Barre has to offer,
highlighting the center city’s cultural, dining, and recreational amenities. The survey shows that
the Fine Arts Fiesta is the most well-attended Downtown event for survey respondents (77%),
followed by RiverFest (37%), the St. Patrick’s Day Parade (34%), and the Christmas Parade
(27%). However, newer events like Downtown Restaurant Week (attended last year by 21% of all
respondents) and the Third Friday Art Walk (attended by 18% of all respondents) continue to
expand the range of reasons to visit Downtown Wilkes-Barre.

When asked about their perception of several different aspects of the Downtown experience,
survey respondents provided clear evidence of Downtown Wilkes-Barre’s current strengths:
  • • 72% of respondents agree that Downtown has quality historic architecture;
  • • 73% of respondents agree that Downtown has a good selection of places to eat;
  • • 65% of respondents agree that Downtown is the region’s college neighborhood;
  • • 67% of respondents agree that Downtown feels safe during the daytime;
  • • 62% of respondents agree that Downtown is a good place to visit for entertainment, arts,
  • and culture.
This question also revealed a number of areas in which respondents believed improvements are
needed, such as safety at night, places to shop, and Downtown’s “visitor domain.”
The survey question “What do you like best about Downtown Wilkes-Barre?” provided a list of
those strengths upon which downtown revitalization efforts should continue to build, including:
  • • Downtown’s restaurant scene
  • • Downtown’s inherent walkability
  • • Downtown’s historic architecture
  • • Downtown’s colleges
  • • The River Common
  • • Arts, culture, and entertainment
  • Conversely, the question “What do you like least about Downtown Wilkes-Barre?“ identified the
  • top issues that still need to be addressed:
  • • A general concern about safety;
  • • Individuals loitering and engaging in uncivil behaviors;
  • • The current condition of Public Square;
  • • Lack of police presence;
  • • Services for the homeless
The survey results demonstrate that people’s opinions about Downtown vary dramatically by the
frequency with which they visit: the more they visit, the more they like what they see. 59% of
those visiting Downtown at least once a week believe that Downtown is headed in the right
direction, while only 12% of those who never visit believe that to be the case.
On the issue of safety, the survey reveals an enormous gap between respondents’ perceptions of
downtown safety and actual crime rates in downtown. Regardless of the reasons for that gap
between perception and reality, the survey results demonstrate the importance of addressing the public’s concerns.

The survey question “What specific amenities or enhancements would you like to see in
Downtown Wilkes-Barre?” generated a “wish list” of responses, topped by the following:
  • • More quality shops – including a grocery store;
  • • Restoration of Public Square (and fixing the fountains);
  • • More quality restaurants (and alfresco dining);
  • • An increased police presence;
  • • A proper museum
Because the topic of a downtown grocery has been much discussed, the survey also queried
respondents about their potential to patronize such a store if it existed, and more than 70% of
Downtown workers, students, and residents reported that they would patronize such a store at
least occasionally.

The survey respondents clearly value Downtown Wilkes-Barre’s importance to the future of our
community: 98% of all respondents agreed that having a vibrant and healthy Downtown Wilkes-
Barre is important to the entire Greater Wilkes-Barre area.

With 825 complete responses, the results of the 2014 Downtown Perception and Use Survey
provides the community with a clear portrait of Downtown Wilkes-Barre’s current strengths and
weaknesses. DCP intends to use these survey results to inform the organization’s work plan, and
to work with our public-sector and private-sector partners to build upon identified strengths and
address the challenges and concerns identified in the survey results.

Elizabeth Graham, Chair of the Board of Diamond City Partnership stated that “we are thrilled
with the response rate to the survey. This was a long survey, but more than 1,000 people took the
time to provide us with thoughtful assessments of Downtown Wilkes-Barre. We will use this
feedback to continue our revitalization efforts. Clearly, building on the growing Downtown
residential base is a key step. As more people live Downtown, the demand for retail shops and
business services will spur investment from the private sector to meet that demand. We are very
happy to see that people believe that Downtown Wilkes-Barre is moving in the right direction,
and that they overwhelmingly recognize the critical importance that Downtown Wilkes-Barre has
for the overall health of the region.”

(Information from Larry Newman
Diamond City Partnership)

Copyright 2016 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.