(Photo by Tom Ipri, used under a Creative Commons license)
Biking along the idyllic Schuylkill River, admiring Germantown’s historic houses and shopping in quaint Chestnut Hill — that’s what community development corporations in Northwest Philadelphia want you to think of when you think “Philly.”
“When people think about Philadelphia, of course they think about Center City, the history,” said Gina Snyder, director of the East Falls Development Corporation. “We want people to know Northwest Philadelphia and what its assets are and why people would want to come to the Northwest.”
Snyder and a cohort of local leaders have found a way to get them there. The Northwest Commercial Corridor (NWCC), as it’s being called, is an informal grouping of local community development corporations and other community organizations that aims to collectively promote the neighborhoods of Northwest Philadelphia. Seven neighborhoods are involved: Chestnut Hill, East Falls, Germantown, Manayunk, Mt. Airy, Roxborough and Ogontz-West Oak Lane.
The organizations had been having occasional conversations together for about three years about topics of shared interest, such as parking and SEPTA. But this plan for a cohesive marketing plan only came together a few months ago, Snyder said.
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They met with Denis Murphy, director of Commercial Corridor Development for the Department of Commerce, who helped them secure funding for the project from the state Department of Community and Economic Development. Econsult Solutions was then brought on to lead a team of marketing consultants to conduct market research, brand development, retail recruitment and marketing planning, according to Econsult Director Ethan Conner-Ross. The consulting group is now conducting a stakeholder study about the area, as well as hosting brainstorming sessions and interviews with community orgs.
The resulting data will include demographics of residents, “retail mix and leakage analysis (the current store mix and spend, and a comparison of the nearby demand with what spending is being captured in the area),” commute pattern, and “neighborhood characteristics and trends, which include quantifiable metrics like real estate prices, crime rates and transit access,” Conner-Ross said.
Eventually, a marketing plan will be formed to target three groups, Snyder said:
- Tourists — People who visit Philadelphia but might not know what the Northwest has to offer.
- Those from the surrounding region — People who live in nearby Montgomery County or other areas.
- Those who live in the Northwest — People who leave to shop or dine elsewhere or who don’t know what’s going on in their own neighborhoods.
To reach tourists, for instance, Snyder said the plan might suggest the NWCC makes postcards advertising the neighborhoods to be placed at downtown visitor hubs, or a central website or social media platform dedicated to the area.
“The want to come up with a strategy to brand and market the Northwest as a whole while highlighting the individual neighborhoods,” Snyder said. “We’re all valuable, separate assets, but we also think there’s something unique about the Northwest.”
It takes a hefty amount of coordinating to get the 10-plus community orgs that are involved in the same room — the project’s biggest struggle is every partner’s busy schedule, according to Snyder. But the benefits of so many partners outweigh the inconveniences.
“What people see is just a huge opportunity,” Snyder said. “The more people there are in the group, the stronger our coalition, the more likely it is we will be successful in joining together in things we wouldn’t necessarily be able to do by ourselves.”
"The more people there are in the group, the stronger our coalition, the more likely it is we will be successful in joining together in things we wouldn’t necessarily be able to do by ourselves."
It’s classic “United we stand,” “Strength in numbers” mentality. But Snyder estimates that it’s also what got the group its funding to conduct the study in the first place, which Murphy confirmed separately.
When asking major organizations for funding, “we’re more likely to have successful meetings and achieve some goals when there are more people sitting around the table saying, ‘Oh yeah, that’s my problem, too,’” she said.
NWCC is an informal coalition right now, but Snyder hopes this process of developing a collective marketing plan will solidify the group.
“The thing that strikes me is, it is a group of really wonderful people with great ideas and a wealth of information, and I feel like, by sharing that across in a way that is collaborative and consistent, that is going to really improve the Northwest,” Snyder said. “By formalizing it, we’ll meet more regularly, have shared goals — and that in itself will improve the quality of work we’re all doing, and improve the visibility of the Northwest.”-30-
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