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Harrisburg moving forward with first Comprehensive Plan since 1974

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HARRISBURG -- It's been 41 years since Harrisburg last had a blueprint on how to build its city for the future. City leaders hoped Thursday signaled a change in direction moving forward.

"We do not want a plan that'll just sit on the shelf," Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse said. "This will guide our city for the next two decades."

Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse discusses the city's first Comprehensive Plan since 1974.

Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse discusses the city's first Comprehensive Plan since 1974.

Since 1974, the last year the city introduced a Comprehensive Plan, Harrisburg has been building off of outdated guidelines or quick-fixes. Since Mayor Papenfuse took office, the city began working on a new Plan for the future, culminating in the selection of consultant firm Office of Planning and Architecture. The Harrisburg-based group will be in charge of creating Harrisburg's Comprehensive Plan over the next 10 months, before submitting it to Harrisburg City Council for approval in April 2016.

A Comprehensive Plan involves reshaping the city entirely. Zoning codes will be affected, Papenfuse said, and infrastructure, transportation, education, and neighborhoods will also be up for improvements. None of it happens, however, without input from the Harrisburg community.

"People need to feel that they have hope, that they have a stake in the neighborhood they live in, and that their voice means something," says Kathy Possinger, executive director of Tri-County Community Action based in the South Allison Hill neighborhood of Harrisburg.

"If we're focusing on a house here and a cross walk here, we're sprinkling pixie dust on a problem and not seeing the impact of growing an entire block," she said.

Transportation is also expected to see a major overhaul with the Comprehensive Plan. Wayne Martin, the city's chief engineer, expects 2nd Street to soon become a two-way road, citing grant funding and resident desire. By creating more traffic on 2nd Street, Martin hopes to divert traffic towards 6th and 7th streets in the hopes the Comprehensive Plan will begin to develop those areas.

"We can take $20,000 and patch two streets of potholes," he said. "Or we could take $20,000 and turn it into $10 million and rebuild streets and bridges."

One of the bridges Martin hopes the city can build is over the train tracks, connecting Division Street in Uptown Harrisburg to Industrial Road near HACC. That project, Martin considers, is a long-term possibility.