Last month I had the opportunity to visit nine European cities in Italy, Spain, and France. Each ranged in size, age, historical relevance, population, and culture. Upon returning home to Lebanon, I wondered what there is to learn from the examples of other cities and how those examples might be applied to Lebanon City?
What stood out to me the most was the quality and condition of the local architecture and how it defined each city’s atmosphere.
Not only were many of the buildings I saw hundreds if not thousands of years old, but the condition of these buildings was still in remarkable shape. What ultimately defined my experience was how each city used its unique history as a core pillar of modern development as it grew over time.
For example, Barcelona, a city in Spain, was founded in 1 BC, more than 2,000 years ago. Yet, with the changing times, Barcelona has effectively adapted with age, pulling from its ancient architecture, culture, and history to develop into the unique, bustling 21st-century city that it is today.
Unlike the United States, which typically has large modern cities filled with skyscrapers or quaint local municipalities, many of the cities I visited in Europe have grown to be a hybrid of both. Instead of demolishing their old buildings to make way for the new, they redeveloped their ancient architecture to keep up with the times.
Barcelona, for example, is unique because the people have chosen to use many historical buildings, making the city much more open and easier to navigate. With time, many of the historical buildings were retrofitted to accommodate modern businesses, leaving the city’s unique soul and history intact.
What these cities have been able to accomplish is remarkable, considering how quickly they have adapted to rapidly changing times. Instead of rebuking the past to catch up to the future, these cities appear to have been able to embrace both the past and present to create unique atmospheres in modern times.
While Lebanon City does not compare in age to the cities I referenced above, Lebanon is abundant in its history and cultural value.
Many of the buildings in the City are deeply rooted in unique architecture and design.
Unfortunately, the polarization that keeps our city stagnant appears to lie between those who want to keep Lebanon a “quaint city” and those who wish to propel the City forward. However, I believe there is no reason why it is not possible to do both in a way that is more considerate of the City’s past and future and all of those who reside inside.
We should celebrate Lebanon’s rich history! Many downtown buildings are exceedingly beautiful in their design; however, due to age, they need to be refurbished to restore their character and aesthetic.
Instead of attempting to “return Lebanon to what it was” or make Lebanon something “new,” I believe we can build the City back more desirably in the same way that cities throughout Europe have done – by emphasizing our diverse cultures, restoring the quality of our unique architecture, and bringing in modern businesses.
By doing this, Lebanon can capitalize on what makes our city stand apart from other cities in Pennsylvania. It would make Lebanon City unique moving forward into the 21st Century and grow our population strong.
For this to happen, the City needs to focus on the things that allow us to stand apart. However, accomplishing any widespread redevelopment initiative would require the people of Lebanon City to build consensus.
For example, Lebanon’s architecture is largely modeled after Victorian Era design. Therefore, the City of Lebanon would need to develop a plan to coordinate with businesses and property owners to restore the downtown to emphasize this unique design.
Coordination is key. Consistency flows and is esthetically pleasing to the mind, and it draws people together in community.
The traffic flow through Downtown Lebanon is more than 40,000 vehicles per day. Therefore, restoring and redeveloping the downtown area through a coordinated effort would be increasingly profitable for the City as a whole, allowing Lebanon City to grow in other areas over time.