American Planning Association


Liberty Street, Franklin, PA

One of Top 10 Great Streets for 2010

1980 Façade Grant Kicks Off Era of Change, Economic Stability

Spotlight on Franklin
PA League of Cities & Municipalities


Franklin, PA – The American Planning Association (APA) today announced the designation of Liberty Street as one of 10 Great Streets for 2010 under the organization’s Great Places in America program. APA Great Places exemplify exceptional character and highlight the role planners and planning play in creating communities of lasting value. Also designated in Pennsylvania as one of APA’s Great Places for 2010 is Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia.

APA singled out Liberty Street for the joint effort between Franklin city officials and local residents in ensuring that the street remains a focal point of county commerce and social activity despite the construction of a nearby retail mall in the 1980s. City projects coupled with private and volunteer efforts have revitalized Franklin’s economy with much of the focus on Liberty Street. Historic architecture and two picturesque and well manicured urban parks also contribute to the street’s draw as a popular downtown destination and make it stand out.

"Downtown Franklin is a reflection of the ‘can do’ spirit that has been a part of our culture throughout the community’s history," said Mayor Doug Baker. "Liberty Street is the heart of our community and serves as an example of what we can accomplish when we work together toward a common goal."

Through Great Places in America, APA recognizes unique and authentic characteristics found in three essential components of all communities – streets, neighborhoods, and public spaces. APA Great Places offer better choices for where and how people work and live every day and are defined by many things including planning efforts, architectural styles, accessibility, and community involvement.

"We’re very excited to name Liberty Street as one of this year’s Great Streets," said APA Chief Executive Officer Paul Farmer, FAICP. "Franklin city officials and residents are to be commended for their strategic planning, commitment, and hours of labor to protect Liberty Street’s historical integrity and economic viability," he added.

Since APA began Great Places in America in 2007, 40 Neighborhoods, 40 Streets and 30 Public Spaces have been designated in 47 states and the District of Columbia.

Approximately $3.7 million dollars has been invested in streetscape enhancements along Liberty Street since the 1980s. The Façade Improvement Grant Program, initiated in 1980, has helped finance over 60 façade improvements along the street and set the stage for Franklin’s downtown revitalization. Local companies purchased and, with help from local volunteers, restored abandoned storefronts. The Barrow-Civic Theatre, previously an out-of-business retail sports outlet, was bought in 1989 by a local theater company and, with the help of hundreds of Franklin residents, was revamped into a first-class 500-seat venue.

Liberty Street was destined for greatness from the beginning. Following the natural curve of French Creek, an offshoot of the Allegheny River, the street was platted by Andrew Ellicott in 1795 as Franklin’s main thoroughfare. The original plan allocated two large portions of land as park space – Bandstand Park and Fountain Park – a rarity for such a small and dense downtown district.

Pennsylvania’s mid-19th century oil boom brought a tremendous amount of prosperity to Franklin. Liberty Street’s original wooden structures were replaced with sturdier, fancier brick and stone buildings. The twin-spire Italianate Venango County Courthouse, designed by Sloan & Hutton of Philadelphia and built 1867, is the crown jewel of the street and Venango County.

The nine other APA 2010 Great Streets are: 5th Avenue in San Diego, CA; Broadway Avenue in Red Lodge, MT; Massachusetts Street in Lawrence, KS; Spring Street in Eureka Springs, AR; Washington Street in Hoboken, NJ; Bank Street in Wallace, ID; Middle Street in New Bern, NC; Washington Street in Middleburg, VA; and Wydown Boulevard in Clayton, MO.

For more information about these streets, as well as lists of the 2010 APA 10 Great Neighborhoods, 10 Great Public Spaces, and designations between 2007 and 2009, visit

This year's Great Places in America will be celebrated as part of APA's National Community Planning Month in October 2010; for more about the special month, visit

    The American Planning Association is an independent, not-for-profit educational organization that provides leadership in the development of vital communities. APA and its professional institute, the American Institute of Certified Planners, are dedicated to advancing the art, science and profession of good planning -- physical, economic and social -- so as to create communities that offer better choices for where and how people work and live. Members of APA help create communities of lasting value and encourage civic leaders, business interests and citizens to play a meaningful role in creating communities that enrich people's lives. APA has offices in Washington, D.C., and Chicago, Ill. For more information, visit