By KAYLA PONGRAC
Our Town Correspondent
The parking lot located across the street from the Bottle Works and Art Works buildings along Third Avenue in Johnstown’s Cambria City neighborhood will soon be transformed into a green space.
And thanks to a recent $60,000 grant from Pennsylvania’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the project is on track to be completed by next summer.
“We’re not just going to go out and pave the parking lot,” Bottle Works Executive Director Angelo Rizzo said. “We’re going to create a parking lot that will use green infrastructure. We’re also looking to put greenery out there — gardens, for instance.
“Our intention is to create an urban green space in Cambria City.”
Rizzo said that the planned parking-lot-turned-green-space is intended to make the area more vibrant and welcoming.
“(Third Avenue) is one of the gateways into Cambria City, so if we can make it an eye catcher, it will be great for everybody,” she said. “When we get this project done, I think it will really transform Cambria City and Bottle Works in general.”
A majority of the money from the grant will be used for construction fees, Rizzo said. Currently, however, they are still in the project’s development phase. Bottle Works is working with Pittsburgh-based landscape architectural firm Paschek and Associates to develop initial plans and designs.
“The work that they’ve done in other communities is in line with what we want to accomplish with this project,” she said.
Rizzo described the timing of the grant as “perfect,” as the grant money will be matched with a grant that Bottle Works received last year from the Commonwealth Financing Authority. That grant, provided by the commonwealth’s Department of Community & Economic Development, totaled $100,000.
These grants will provide a majority of the funding Bottle Works needs to complete the project, but some additional funding will still be necessary.
Rizzo said that she and her fellow staff members were excited to hear that they had received the $60,000 grant.
“With these types of grants, you never know if you’re going to get them or not,” she said. “We are really excited and happy about it.”
She gave her appreciation to local politicians, as well as Johnstown Area Regional Industries, a nonprofit economic development organization that Rizzo described as “a big cheerleader for Bottle Works.”
“We really appreciate the support,” Rizzo said. “These guys get the bigger picture, that this project is going to make a big impact. That’s what we are trying to get across. Once we get these projects funded and finished up, it will make a tremendous impact on our community.”
State Sen. John N. Wozniak approved the $60,000 grant, which was one of three awarded within the region.
In Bedford County, $96,219 was allotted for the continued development of the Martin Hill ATV Trail in Buchanan State Forest. The grant will be used to add a half-mile of new trail and make improvements to the existing trail.
In Clearfield County, Curwensville Borough received $15,000 to prepare a master site development plan for Irvin Park.
“We need to do all we can to access state funds for projects that spur economic revitalization and boost recreational activity,” Wozniak said in a press release. “Improving facilities helps our communities grow. Well-maintained and accessible parks, recreation venues and community facilities are attractions that drive business activity, enhance progress and improve the quality of life throughout the region.”
Funds for all three grants were approved through the Department of Conservation and Natural Resource’s Community Conservation Partnership Program grant program.
Rizzo said she’s looking forward to the day when the parking lot becomes yet another space in Cambria City for people to appreciate what Johnstown — and Bottle Works — has to offer.
“This is part of our big vision,” she said. “Bottle Works may be one little entity, but we have the opportunity to make a big difference.”
“We have a lot of positive momentum going in Cambria City, and this will transform the neighborhood and make it a really big community asset. It will help us offer more programming, such as gardening and composting. We want to educate people on green infrastructure, too.”