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2022 Community Improvement Award Recipients

Huntingdon County Planning Commission and the Huntingdon County Chamber of Commerce presented five Community Improvement Awards at the Planning Commission’s dinner on March 9. Those representing the award recipients are, from the left, Barry Slusser (Bluegills Bar & Grill) Alisha Grove (Mount Union Area Community Garden), John Kearns (Huntingdon County Arts Council), Susan Simpson (Huntingdon County Arts Council) Susan Wentzel ((Huntingdon County Arts Council), Kathy Jones (Huntingdon Landmarks) and Mike Sines (Bobcat of Huntingdon).

Huntingdon County Planning Commission and the Huntingdon County Chamber of Commerce recognized five award recipients in the categories of Community Spirit, Preservation, New Construction, and Special Merit. Awards are being presented for projects completed in 2022.

These awards would not be possible without the support of our sponsor, Kish Bank. Cheryl Shope joined Mike Simone (Chamber Event Committee Chair and Immediate Past Board Chair) to present the awards.  

Community Spirit includes the recognition of individuals and organizations that have made a significant contribution to Huntingdon County in the field of community development.

On April 1, 2022 the Huntingdon County Arts Council purchased the former 12th Street Methodist Church. The newly created Arts Center consists of the church building and the parking lot in the back at 313 12th St. in Huntingdon. While the physical appearance of both the inside and outside remain unchanged, the usage of the building has become a thriving arts center, benefiting residents from all over Huntingdon County.

With a new building and more space, the Huntingdon County Arts Council’s programming has increased dramatically. The new Arts Center offers a regular series of classical, folk and ragtime concerts; a summer arts camp for kids; a year-round Art Shoppe that provides a venue for local artists to sell their artwork and for the public to purchase that artwork; an expanded list of classes and workshops; and a meeting space for formal and informal community groups. Community response has been outstanding; and awareness of the arts and arts opportunities has reached new levels. Accepting the award on behalf of the Huntingdon County Arts Council were: Executive Director, John Kearns; President, Susan Wentzel; and Secretary, Susan Simpson.
The second award last evening was the New Construction Award. Bobcat of Huntingdon is a new full-line construction and outdoor power equipment dealership owned and operated by Pristows Equipment Group. It was designed by Pristows following the brand standards set by the Bobcat Company, and built by Timberline Buildings. The 7,900 square foot pole building was created by remodeling an existing 50’ x 60’ building and adding 70’ x 70’ of brand new space. The existing space serves as a garage and the new space is a bright, state of the art showroom with 14’ ceilings.

The main exterior feature is the eye-catching 13.5’ x 18’ orange corner wall with a back-lit white Bobcat of Huntingdon logo. The Bobcat Exterior Identity Wall is a strong brand identifier that makes a bold statement and places focus on the signature color, “Bobcat Orange,” and the brand logo. The logo was made and installed by Salix Cabinetry.

Two 12’ x 6’ LED screens on both sides of the building continuously display store-related information. These screens, installed by Scholar Signs, feature an illuminated Pristows Equipment Group logo underneath the scrolling display area.

This project transformed a blighted property with a mixture of new construction and a modern look. Inadequate and non-functioning septic systems were replaced, curbing was installed; and the building is fully ADA accessible. Vice President, Mike Sines accepted the award.

We had two recipients of the Preservation Award. Our first award was presented to Huntingdon Landmarks for the preservation of the historic building located at 400 Penn Street in Huntingdon. The historic building was erected in 1796 and is part of downtown Huntingdon’s National Register Historic District. The three-story building is located on the highly visible corner of 4th and Penn Streets and has street-level retail and café space as well as four residential apartment units on the upper floors. The total square footage of the building is 1,742.

The building was purchased in late July 2021 using funds provided through a grant to Huntingdon Landmarks from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.

The first step was replacement of the deteriorating roof, which was causing interior structural damage. Although not visible from the street, this repair was a necessary first step in the preservation process. The next steps included renovation of one apartment followed by similar renovations to other apartments as they are vacated.  Signature renovations include repairing masonry work and wooden soffits; repainting the entire building; and sealing the softer brick structure. Softer brick needs to be preserved with an exterior paint to ensure it does not excessively wear. The base color and accent colors were chosen from the historic palette to not only freshen the corner, but to compliment the surrounding buildings.

Interior work to the renovated apartment included replacing carpeting with floating floor; replacing an old radiator heating system with more efficient base heating; repainting the interior; modernizing the bathroom and kitchen with new appliances, countertops, cabinets, a bath/shower combination and a toilet; and repairing leaking pipes.

The soon-to-be occupied retail space will provide tourist information and feature locally available products for sale. It is anticipated that office space will be available for a proposed “Community Leader” tasked with revitalizing the business district. It is also anticipated that the renovated apartments will provide an affordable housing option for the community. Kathleen Jones accepted the award on behalf of Huntingdon Landmarks.

Our second Preservation Award Recipient was Bluegills Bar & Grill for the renovation of a 1,800 square foot Alexandria landmark. Originally known as Main Street Café, the building was closed for three years and required a complete remodel because of neglect. A new roof and new floors were installed. New kitchen equipment was purchased for the enlarged kitchen; new ADA compliant restrooms were constructed; and modernized décor is used throughout the bar and grill areas.

The renovation of this community staple has also brought more than 20 jobs back to the area and has given the local community a place to gather. Local vendors are utilized to enhance economic stimulation and a fresh and innovative cuisine is offered. Bluegills Bar & Grill owner, Barry Slusser accepted the award.

Our last award was the Special Merit Award and was presented for the Mount Union Area Community Garden. The idea for the garden first came about at a Juniata River Blueprint Community (JRBC) Meeting. The Mount Union Community Garden project met goals within the JRBC plan by improving both image and identity along with quality of life within the communities. An Act 13 Marcellus Legacy Fund grant from the Huntingdon County Commissioners provided $10,000.00 toward construction of the garden.

The Mount Union Borough Council offered a 50’ x 100’ plot of land at Rogers-Newman Park. This site, located near a creek and in an area of open space with lots of sunlight, is perfect for the garden. Borough Council also offered a water source at no cost to gardeners.

Volunteers of the Mount Union Area Community Garden broke ground at Rogers-Newman Park in Mount Union in April of 2021. Forty raised garden beds were constructed, placed, and filled with soil according to the plan. Weed barriers were then placed between the plots and mulched. A fence was installed around the perimeter of the garden. A shed, complete with gardening tools, was installed to allow community gardeners access to tools to aid in successful gardening. Two of the forty plots were used to temporarily plant blueberry bushes that were donated from the Conservation District. Another two plots were designated to grow food for the local food pantry and the remaining thirty-six plots were quickly assigned to community members that wished to utilize the garden in its first season. Alisha Grove accepted the award. 


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