Sweet Glitter Gallery and interactive community fence on East Girard commercial corridor.
Philadelphia LISC and the city Commerce Department have taken an interest in Fishtown’s up-and-coming East Girard Avenue corridor and West Philadelphia’s struggling 52nd Street corridor. This interest was spurred by a $98,000 grant and technical assistance donations from the PNC Bank Foundation for each of the corridors.
A Community Centerpiece
The NKCDC used the funding and LISC support to create the Model Block program on the 300-block of East Girard, which is between Oxford and Marlborough Streets. Much of the funding went toward a long interactive fence built by Make, LLC, a Northern Liberties-based architecture, planning, and design firm
“The fence can serve as a bench, art easel, table for impromptu markets or meet-up spot for our popular First Friday on Frankford Ave monthly event,” said Diana Jih, community relations specialist at NKCDC.
Along with the fence, a number of businesses on the 300-block of Girard received Storefront Improvement Program (SIP) grants from the Commerce Department. These businesses include Street Glitter Gallery, Keys to the Attic, and Nic Nacs 4 Peanuts, according to Jih.
New Management on 52nd Street
In West Philadelphia, another $98,000 PNC grant led to The Enterprise Center assuming major duties along the 52nd Street corridor between Arch and Spruce Streets. The biggest achievement so far is the hiring of 52nd Street’s first commercial corridor manager, Akeem Dixon, who started at the beginning of the year.
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Dixon, an employee of The Enterprise Center, works closely with the 52nd Street CDC, the 52nd Street Business Association, and the Philadelphia Vendor’s Association, which is run by business owners located in the corridor. Dixon explained that the business corridor is not limited to 52nd Street. It also covers 51st and 53rd Streets as well.
The Enterprise Center and Dixon foresee more improvements happening along the 52nd Street corridor now that it has a dedicated manager. For example, Dixon has wasted no time in looking into SIP grants for the numerous retail outlets and restaurants that have kept the corridor bustling with commercial activity.
The University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Design offered its services free of charge to a local business owner who applied for a SIP grant. The owner, Gwendolyn Hosey, who runs Struttin Lightly on 52nd between Market and Arch Streets. Hosey has benefited from pro bono help from Penn students with the design renderings necessary to apply for the grant. She also received credit counseling and other financial advice from The Enterprise Center’s Capital Corporation.
“Ready Willing and Able, a cleaning company that handles a large chunk of the corridor cleaning under the supervision of TEC’s Clean & Safe Manager Donnell Brown, have done an amazing job of sprucing up the corridor,” Dixon said.
In addition, Tree Philly, which is a program of the city’s Parks & Recreation Department, and UC Green will be embarking on a plan to plant trees and otherwise green the corridor later this year and next year. TEC is looking to create a website directing people to the corridor’s retail options by autumn, said Dixon. The CDC is currently working with the University of Pennsylvania’s City and Regional Planning department to undertake GIS mapping and property assessments on the corridor in preparation for the website.
It is important to note that the PNC grant was necessary to prepare 52nd Street for a corridor manager, but it did not actually go towards the hiring of Dixon. The funding “provided capacity building to the CDC, prioritization recommendations about what to try to implement first from the existing plan, and some bridge-building to other organizations, including [the] Enterprise Center,” explained Andy Frishkoff, executive director at Philadelphia LISC.
Frishkoff added that he hopes that the Commerce Department will step in and fund the corridor manager position in the future.
The PNC Foundation grants were inspired by LISC’s MetroEdge Corridors of Retail Excellence (CORE) program, which started in 2011. As a result of CORE’s success, PNC pledged support for six corridors in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Chicago in subsequent years. East Girard and 52nd Street were chosen through a competitive RFP process, according to Frishkoff.
In Philadelphia, CORE serves as a companion program to LISC’s Philadelphia Commercial Corridor Revitalization (PCCR) program, which recently helped fund revitalization on the Lancaster Avenue corridor in Mantua and University City with the People’s Emergency Center CDC and the 60th Street corridor in Haddington and Cobbs Creek with The Partnership CDC.-30-
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