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A community “alive and real”

EASTON, Pa.(, October 14, 2008 — Vibrant energy – part of Easton’s character since it first became a commercial and cultural hub in the 1800s – pulses in Centre Square and elsewhere in the riverfront city.

Among the newest contributors to the vitality are the downtown ambassadors. On the job since May, the ambassadors are highly visible in their red shirts, welcoming visitors and helping keep the streets clean and safe – removing litter, weeds, and graffiti and providing an additional presence to deter crime.

Easton resident and businessman Robert Wozniak calls the ambassadors “one of the most obvious faces of positivity in our town.”

“The building facades and new street lights become part of the background, but when a person is walking around watering plants, picking things up, you can’t help but notice them,” says Wozniak, the owner of Preservation Works, Ltd.

Anthony Marraccini, president of the Arts Community of Easton, agrees. “The ambassadors have had a huge impact. The perception alone is so valuable.”

Nearly a dozen art galleries, including Marraccini’s Connexions Gallery, make Easton vibrant – signs of an urban art community primed for growth. “There are new artists and creative people moving in every week,” he says. “Easton’s kind of funky; it reminds people of places in New York where they’ve lived. Those people will start to have an effect as they reinvest in the community.”

Just a few of the artists to join ACE recently are Wei Jane Chir, who has exhibited her work extensively in New York, Germany, and her native Taiwan; Carl Martinez, a Manhattan-based designer of decorative hardware; Dudley Knight, a professional actor and teacher; and Hollywood film editor Gershon Hinkson.

Marraccini talks enthusiastically of the city’s plans for the Simon Silk Mill site on North 13th St. and their potential to turn Easton into an international destination. An arts village is envisioned for the 14-acre property, including traditional arts and new media along with restaurants, retail space, and residential space. The Easton Redevelopment Authority was recently awarded a $200,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to assist with cleanup work.

Vitality is also found in the city’s many downtown shops and eateries, from old favorites like the Colonial Pizza and Spaghetti House to the new Valenca, and at the oldest continuously operating open-air farmer’s market in the country.

“It’s jammin’ every Saturday down at the Farmer’s Market,” Wozniak says. “I see a lot of visitors walking around looking up at the facades.”

Ken Jones is one of the many merchants who welcomed the College’s students, faculty, and staff downtown Sept. 20 for the second annual Lafayette Day in the Square. Lafayette Day coincided with the annual Riverside Festival of the Arts, which attracts more than 1,500 visitors to Easton each year.

“It was a magical day,” says Jones, who opened his business, Ken Jones Jr. Fine Art, in July. “There’s a vibrant kind of energy here that we’re glad to be plugging into.”

“It feels like everyone is connected to each other in a way here, which is nice because the community is alive and real,” says Laini Abraham, owner of Laini’s Little Shop in the Eastonian, the high-end condominium building, and publisher of Laini’s Little Pocket Guide to Easton. “It is the people who are Easton’s greatest asset, from all different socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds.”

Wozniak says he saw much potential in Easton when he moved here seven years ago. “People are getting behind the city’s renewal. We’re urban pioneers, giving life to the community.”

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