Swarthmore will soon be a busier place, says Anita Barrett, new Swarthmore Town Center Coordinator.
In just over a month on the job at STC — which represents merchants’ and residents’ interests in economic development of central Swarthmore — Barrett has spent as much time out of her Borough Hall office as in it. “It’s been a big listening tour for the first month,” she says. “I’ve met with most of the merchants, gotten to know members of Borough Council, met with Ross Schmucki and Council’s General Government committee, with some commercial real estate people, and with members of organizations that have programs under STC. I’m also working closely with Jane Billings and her staff.”
Many Swarthmoreans know Town Center through its programs, First Friday and the Swarthmore Farmers Market. The market generates lots of foot traffic in town every Saturday for eight months of the year, and was recognized as one of Pennsylvania’s best in 2016. But it can be more, Barrett says.
“I’m hoping we can attract more shoppers this year. We have kept ours local, but maybe this is an opportunity to share our market with other communities like Media [which is discontinuing its farmers market this year].”
The market is great at attracting shoppers on Saturdays, Barrett says, but STC is also conscious of the need to support restaurant owners who seek to serve residents all week. She’s excited about a new event that may spur shopping and dining midweek: Thursday Night Live.
“Swarthmore musician Will Paynter approached us about putting on a free concert series in the Central Park amphitheater, with all local talent,” Barrett says. “It’s another opportunity to get people out to this beautiful space, where we’ll be encouraging people to picnic. A couple of our members have already expressed interest in coming out and grilling or offering some ‘grab and go’ meals.”
Building upon the occasional uses of the amphitheater last year, the concerts will start at a family-friendly 6 p.m. hour and continue through 9 p.m. The summer series will present shows every other Thursday, beginning June 15 with Swukestra and Greg Brady on stage. And on a Thursday in July, the Farmers Market will hold its first-ever evening market in concert with the music.
Barrett’s background is in the education world, most recently as civic engagement coordinator at Widener University. She holds a M.Ed. from Penn in Curriculum and Instruction, and worked in Washington, D.C., in developing programs and curriculum for leadership development. She and husband Vince moved to Wallingford five years ago, then to Swarthmore a couple of years later. Their eight-year-old son Griffin is a student at the Walden School in Media.
Both elder Barretts are involved with the Swarthmore21 referendum on liquor licenses in the borough — Vince as one of the more visible movers of the initiative and Anita as head of STC, which was one of the original conveners of S21. Anita says, “Some of Town Center’s members support S21, others are against it or neutral. In my role, I want to advocate for all business. I would just encourage voters to learn about the issues, and to talk to a merchant. It’s important to realize that some of our merchants don’t live in Swarthmore. They’ve built their dreams here, and they have no vote, but they do have a voice.”
Other goals Barrett identifies at this early stage are to involve more merchants in the Town Center board — “they have the most skin in the game”; to pursue state Keystone Communities grants for signage and beautification; to roll out a new brochure deigned by Lora Pietrangelo and Andy Shelter, and to build outreach to Swarthmore College students. “The One Card has been very successful for the restaurants in town and I hope to continue to see gains in our town/gown relationship.”