How Some Main Street Businesses Survived the Pandemic

Despite the economic blow dealt by last year's lockdowns, business districts in smaller cities like Wilkes-Barre managed to weather the crisis.

June 10, 2021, 8:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Downtown Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, United States.

Doug Kerr / Downtown Wilkes-Barre

Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, a city that once relied on coal production as its main economic driver, has struggled to maintain a vibrant business district. As the pandemic hit, Jonno Rattman, Michael Corkery, Alana Celii, and Gabriel Gianordoli of the New York Times photographed the city's Main Street and its transformation over the course of an unprecedented year, chronicling the challenges and resilience of local businesses.

While some businesses, particularly those already facing hard times before the pandemic, did shut down, "[a] survey by the National Main Street Center of several hundred communities found that for every business that closed in a city the size of Wilkes-Barre, 1.4 new ones opened up." According to an April 2020 survey, "more than half of the downtown Wilkes-Barre businesses that responded said they were at risk of closing permanently. In the end, only six did." Along with the Paycheck Protection Program, which awarded nearly $800 billion through over 11 million loans that kept many small businesses afloat, "[l]ow interest rates and falling rents have also aided entrepreneurship." 

But local boosters such as Larry Newman, executive director of the Diamond City Partnership, worry that businesses will continue to be negatively impacted by the losses of the past year even as business returns to normal. "'I’ve begun to worry that many Main Street businesses may face a sort of economic equivalent of Covid long-haul,' he said. 'Making it through the shutdowns only to confront a persistent, longer-term struggle.'"

Tuesday, June 1, 2021 in The New York Times

Indian Trail, North Carolina

Four ‘Low-Hanging Fruit’ Zoning Reforms

An excerpt from the latest book on zoning argues for four approaches to reform that can immediately improve land use regulation in the United States.

June 26, 2022 - M. Nolan Gray

Car Traffic

San Francisco Just Ended Single-Family Zoning

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to Tuesday to eliminate single-family zoning, but pro-development advocates say additional changes are needed to unleash a wave of construction.

June 29, 2022 - San Francisco Chronicle


U.S. Rental Market Crosses a New Threshold of Affordability

In a first for the country's rental market, most U.S. apartments are asking for more than $2,000 to rent, according to data recently published by Redfin.

June 21, 2022 - Redfin

New Jersey Power Plant

Supreme Court Guts the U.S. EPA’s Ability to Limit Carbon Emissions

The consequences of this ruling have long been foretold. With the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency now officially barred from the fight against climate change, Congress will have to act to reduce carbon emissions.

June 30 - Yahoo News

Central Los Angeles

California Approves Revised Los Angeles Housing Element

State officials officially approved the city’s housing plan, which was initially rejected for not doing enough to enhance housing equity.

June 30 - Urbanize LA

A fly fisher casts on a fog-covered river.

Lawsuit Could Open Public Access to Colorado Rivers

Colorado is one of few U.S. states that has decided that private property owners supersede the public when it comes to access to rivers and streams.

June 30 - High Country News

New Updates on The Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

International Real Estate Strategies and Deal Negotiation

Harvard Graduate School of Design Executive Education

Affordable Housing: Principles for Changing Domestic and Global Markets

Harvard Graduate School of Design Executive Education

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Hand Drawing Master Plans

This course aims to provide an introduction into Urban Design Sketching focused on how to hand draw master plans using a mix of colored markers.