Case Study: West End Berwick
By Reilly Price '13 (political science and environmental studies)
The West End of Berwick was once a thriving community and home to many workers at the American Car and Foundry Company, which found great success from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century, coinciding with the booming coal industry. When rail cars were no longer needed, and the economy shifted away from coal-based energy, the company was shut down, and the service industry that supported those workers also began to crumble.
As the economy of the community started to collapse, so did the infrastructure and housing. Berwick had little to offer in the way of jobs, so young working families stopped moving to the area, and the population became much older. By 2009, most of the homes in West End Berwick, also referred to as the LaSalle Street neighborhood, were owned by elderly families or absentee landlords. Many of the rentals went to low-income individuals that often had less of a stake in the community and failed to properly maintaining their property. Crime rates in Berwick increased, and the 300-block became notorious around Berwick and the surrounding towns as being drug-infested and unsafe. Other problems in the neighborhood included vandalization, blighted properties, and loitering and drug activity at Sponsler Park, causing a lack of use among residents.