Written by Scot Case

On June 1, the Greater Reading Economic Partnership hosted a downtown event to celebrate two recent sustainability investments: the purchases of office buildings at 503 and 505 Penn St.

John Weidenhammer, founder of Wyomissing-based Weidenhammer computer technology and strategy firm, made the first sustainability investment. In March 2016, he purchased 503 Penn St. He has been busy renovating the four-story building for Weidenhammer offices with space reserved on the first floor for a restaurant.

The second sustainability investment was made by Jim Cinelli, a principal with Liberty Environmental Inc., 50 N. Fifth St., an environmental engineering firm. Cinelli purchased the four-story building next door to Weidenhammer at 505 Penn St. It will provide office space for the company, with other business tenants 503 and 505 Penn Street Reading PAoccupying the additional space.

Both purchases represent investments in the sustainability of local businesses and the sustainability of downtown Reading.

“Reading is a green field of opportunity,” Weidenhammer said. “By investing in Reading, I’m investing in my own company. My business will grow and prosper while helping Reading grow and prosper, which will help my business continue growing and prospering.”

For Weidenhammer, sustainability is about the community. It is about creating an even more prosperous and vibrant community in downtown Reading.

Cinelli agreed, but also talked about his investment from a different sustainability perspective.

“It’s better from a sustainability perspective to invest in an existing building rather than clearing farmland for a new building,” Cinelli said.

“Buildings close together like those on Penn Avenue,” he said, “are one-fourth to one-half the cost to heat and cool because the buildings insulate each other. Those energy savings put extra money in my pocket while also creating environmental benefits.”

The sustainability of a business and the sustainability of a community both require people working together collaboratively. It involves contributing to the hard work of others and leveraging the combined results to benefit everyone.

Kyle McKechnie, a commercial real estate agent with Wyomissing-based NAI Keystone, agrees.

“Look at what happened in Lancaster over several years,” McKechnie said. “Several developers made big bets at the same time and supported one another’s efforts to make the city better.”

McKechnie is optimistic about the future for Reading, citing the success of the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel, the Imax theater and the recent purchases by Weidenhammer and Cinelli.

“There are a lot of upside opportunities for Reading,” McKechnie said. “Nothing is a sure thing, but if you’re investing now, you’re not buying at the peak of the market. There are lots of opportunities for an investment to appreciate.”

McKechnie praised Weidenhammer and Cinelli for being smart investors.

“They’re investing in their buildings, but they are also investing in the city,” McKechnie said.

Smart investors do not “buy and hold real estate,” he said. “They buy and invest. They buy a building and invest in its success.”

Cinelli, McKechnie and Weidenhammer all praised the pioneering work of Albert R. Boscov, the philanthropist and former owner of Boscov’s who passed away in February, as an example of the strategy.

Boscov invested in the local community, in part, because a vibrant community meant more potential Boscov’s customers.

Like Boscov, Cinelli and Weidenhammer understand that the success of their business investments depends on the success of the city.

When Weidenhammer was asked about the return on investment for the purchase and renovation of 503 Penn St., he smiled and said: “The money will take care of itself.

“The best way to measure the real return,” he continued, “will be five years from now when I see the additional activity on the streets after 5, and on weekends. Reading will be even better than it was when I was a kid growing up here.”

Read about Sustainability as a Business Strategy here.

Scot Case, Lower Heidelberg Township, is a business management educator/consultant and senior associate for Springboard International Inc., Chantilly, Va.