Daniel Egusquiza of Barrio Alegría takes national stage to address urban renewal

A Reading community leader and activist took to a national stage to lead a seminar “Creative Placemaking 101” Thursday to discuss the art of transforming underloved spaces.

Daniel Egusquiza, founder and executive director of Barrio Alegría, represented the City of Reading and reveal the triumphs and trials he has faced through Barrio’s work to create change in places that are deemed ugly, dangerous, or forgotten.

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“This is an amazing opportunity for people who want to know how to make a lasting impact in their community through continued, intentional community engagement,” Egusquiza said. “This is very different from the one-off, parachute programming that is so prominent in our city.”

The seminar was featured in a virtual bootcamp designed for community leaders confronting challenges related to vacant, abandoned, and deteriorated (VAD) properties in their communities.

The VAD Academy is hosted by the renowned Center for Community Progress, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to improving areas that have inordinate rates of vacancy through disrupting the unjust systems that perpetuate urban deterioration.

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Two-day online academy draws from experienced leaders who have successfully tackled blight in their communities.

“During VAD Academy, our instructors will guide you through critical topics related to property and neighborhood revitalization,” The Center of Community Progress writes about the academy on its website. “Whether you work with urban, suburban, or rural communities, the VAD Academy curriculum will help you combat widespread abandonment and neighborhood decline.”

Egusquiza shared his experience through Barrio’s work in helping bring to fruition Lucky’s Lane in Reading’s traditionally Black enclave of South Seventh Street, bringing culturally competent programming to the controversial Riverfront Park, providing free art opportunities to families in public spaces, and forming agreements with government bodies to take ownership of physical spaces.

“I’m really excited to share our on-the-ground experiences with an organization as lauded and respected as Center for Community Progress,” Egusquiza said. “I’m sure I will learn from the other presenters; I just hope that others can use the information I share to transform lives in their cities just as Barrio has done here.”

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