Coopersburg is situated in one of the fastest growing regions in America, and it has maintained its roughly 2,500 population for decades. In order for the Borough to grow, it needs to distinguish itself from its larger neighbors by partnering with several local organizations to create a shared social space and further beautify the community.

This plan serves as the guide for Coopersburg to grow their cultural offerings and in doing so increase their economic development.

This project is unique in that we were brought into this work by PENN DOT. The transportation agency had recently taken a more creative approach to transportation, focusing not only on the roads but also on the buildings and green spaces that are along the roads. In order to experiment with this concept our team at Alchemy was brought in to do placemaking work alongside traditional transportation concepts. We then worked with PENN DOT to create criteria to choose a solid beta-community. We were looking for a community with strong civic leadership and Coopersburg rose to the top.

This project was a collaboration with the Borough of Coopersburg, PENN DOT, the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission and Alchemy Community Transformations.

Community Visioning

Keeping in mind the need to link transportation with community development, we began our work with several community visioning sessions. Nearly 100 residents took part in these sessions or subsequent interviews.

Our steering committee and visioning attendees were put together under the leadership of Borough Manager Tim Paashaus, community volunteer Ken Mohr and Council Member Dick Poot.

The visioning sessions covered a great deal of territory, delving deep into the long history of Coopersburg and its place as one of the original cattle auction sites all the way up to recent accomplishments including the new Sage Alley Brewery and award winning high school robotics team.

Coopersburg is located in an area that is going to experience growth for the next 20 years due to its proximity to NYC and Philadelphia, and due to suburban New Jersey residents coming across the Delaware river for lower taxes and better schools.

In order to grow in a strategic manner, a few themes emerged:

These topics led us to land on the three major projects of this plan:

  • Turning Coopersburg Borough Hall into a shared social space
  • Connecting Coopersburg’s streetscape/rail trail systems with Living Memorial Park
  • Main Street wayfinding and public art

Borough Hall

Currently the building is utilized for Borough administration on the main floor, but they only need about 1,000 square feet. The third floor is occupied by the Coopersburg Historical Society Museum and the basement is rented by the Coopersburg Area Society of Model Engineers (CASME) at $150/month. This leaves a great deal of space that is underutilized, and the building sits in the center of downtown making it a great destination for a social space.

The goal is to retain all three of the current users of the space and activate the additional square footage that is underutilized as a social space for the residents of Coopersburg.

Route 309

Route 309 is busy, crazy busy. Serving as the main connection to Allentown and beyond, and with vehicles traveling at an average of 55mph, the state highway is not an ideal place for pedestrians to cross the road.

Additionally, Coopersburg wants the thousands of daily motorists to veer off 309 and drive the 2 minutes into downtown in order to patronize its businesses. Not only do we need to calm traffic for crossings, we need to give drivers a reason to pay attention to the fact that they have entered a new locale.

Public Art

Extending the cow theme into downtown is a natural way for continuity as well as to lead motorists into the historic heart of the borough.

Coopersburg has done remarkable work for a small community over the years with their streetscape/rail trail system. The goal is to put cows (designed by local/regional artists as well) on strategic corners of downtown and the streetscape/rail trail system.

A further goal is that whenever a new cow is installed, it should be celebrated along with the community events that take place throughout the year.

Coopersburg is going to grow simply based on its proximity to NYC and Philadelphia. This plan will help the community grow in a smart, strategic manner that includes feedback and buy-in from nearly 100 residents.

This plan is not a beginning or an end, it is a continuation of the good work the residents of Coopersburg have already accomplished.