Ever since he was a child, Patrick Ness has been fascinated by buildings.
The architectural designer and Associate at Murphy & Dittenhafer Architects said his mother saved a drawing of a house he did when he was in preschool with the words “I love houses” scrawled across it.
Today, Ness loves structures of all kinds – from houses to office buildings – and the neighborhoods they’re constructed in.
And just like he did when he was a kid, Ness still has a knack for pictures. Only today he draws on a slightly bigger scale.
Right now, he sees the area just across the Codorus Creek – a neighborhood which has earned the nickname “WeCo,” short for West of the Codorus – as a giant game of connect-the-dots.
Places like the Blue Moon, York YMCA and New Grounds Roasting Company serve as anchoring points. But more dots are needed to fill the spaces in between in order to complete the picture: A robust, walkable neighborhood with its own unique identity.
Ness isn’t the only person with this vision. Like-minded business owners and other community activists have been working with the city to turn WeCo into a destination on par with growing districts like Royal Square and the area surrounding Central Market. It’s a project Murphy & Dittenhafer, with offices in the former Hotel Codorus, has taken a special interest in.
“The goal is to get people excited to bring business down to this area and to move to this area,” Ness said.
A community gathers
Each month, Ness represents Murphy and Dittenhafer Architects at meetings attended by others in the neighborhood to discuss ways to generate interest in their side of the creek. These meetings include people like Craig Wolf, the executive director of the York YMCA; David Smith, co-owner of i-ron-ic on West Philadelphia Street; and Natalie Williams from Downtown Inc., among others.
They plan events, talk about improving safety, build marketing strategies, spread the word about new business openings and address any concerns or problems WeCo business owners or residents might have.
The list of WeCo-centered events is growing: Creek Fires at Foundry Park the fourth Saturday of the month during warm seasons, the Pigs on Penn Bacon Festival at the Market and Penn Farmers Market, a barbecue planned for York’s upcoming 275th birthday on July 23 featuring Willy Wonka-inspired Golden Ticket invitations for hundreds of lucky candy lovers, and the re-convening of the York City Yacht Club during the Yorkfest Arts Festival.
The hope is that these events will generate interest in the neighborhood, bringing not only local residents but attracting visitors from Hanover, Lancaster and beyond.
“The vision overall would be to create a neighborhood that people want to be in – whether it’s living there, visiting, going to an event,” Ness said. “I just think it would be great to see it more active.”
Becoming rooted in York
Ness himself wasn’t always sold on York. The Dallastown Area High School graduate left the area to pursue a degree in architecture at Penn State University and spent time traveling the country and the world.
But when it came time to start his career, he figured York’s central location between Harrisburg and Baltimore would only help with job prospects.
The real draw was the opportunity to return to his hometown and be closer to his family and long-time friends, some of who, as it turned out, were becoming involved with the redevelopment of York’s downtown.
WeCo’s identity and story is still being written and Ness is thrilled to help write it.
Or rather, connect a few more dots.
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