(Photo by Albert Hong)
When the shuttered Edward Bok Technical High School in South Philly reopened as a hub for artists and makers, there was a good amount of opposition particularly with the pop-up beer garden that opened on the rooftop in 2015.
But as told by Lindsey Scannapieco, managing partner and cofounder of Scout, the development firm heading the new direction of the 340,000 square-foot school building, that bar and its success — over 22 nights, the bar had more than 30,000 people visiting the building — were key to her showing folks from the public the building’s potential.
“I believed that there was something incredible in this building that people would see,” Scannapieco said at panel discussion yesterday called All Together Now: Incubating New Business Development on Neighborhood Commercial Corridors at the Center City coworking space Pipeline Philly.
As a real estate developer, that exposure was also a time to show folks from the bank her vision for “providing an affordable space for people to do anything they dream of doing.” She ended up receiving the first construction loan to get to where Scout is now, which Scannapieco visualized through numbers. As of today:
- The team has just more than 80 tenants
- 15 percent of which are nonprofits
- And 85 percent of which are local South Philly residents.
- Plus, more than 30 new jobs have been created out of those 80 tenants within the last 12 months.
It was this kind of insight and advice from those working in community development corporations (CDCs), incubators, development and coworking spaces — and how these spaces can all work together to foster innovative businesses in Philly’s corridors — that made up the discussion hosted by the Philadelphia Association of CDC’s Community Development Leadership Institute.
When asked by Akeem Dixon, director of economic development at New Kensington CDC, on what makes the developers interested in a neighborhood, Jacob Roller, principal of J. Roller Development went straight to these values: “history, transportation, what type of buildings are there, what’s the character of the neighborhood.”
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“Think about the mix and how different businesses can complement each other and enhance each other,” Roller added when speaking of diversity.
For Kimberly Carter, VP of the The Enterprise Center and director of the Dorrance H. Hamilton Center for Culinary Enterprises, “community revitalization” is the number one goal for any CDC. A success story on her end would be SpOt Burgers, which just opened a physical storefront in Brewerytown last year and is in talks to hopefully open another location in West Philly, Carter said.
“That’s what we want,” she said. “We are an incubator so the purpose of our commissary is for businesses to start there, to grow and to move on.”
Meegan Denenberg and Tayyib Smith, cofounders of Pipeline Philly and the Knight Foundation-funded Institute of Hip Hop Entrepreneurship, stressed the “human touch” that’s required when approaching any sort of development — which includes the idea of “ethical development” that Smith said he was skeptical of in a panel late last year.
“We realized that a lot of neighborhoods were ignited by just one venue,” Denenberg said. “Transportation and amenities matter, but I think it [also] matters how we’re going to approach developing the space. If you take a neighborhood that may be lacking in a variety of ways, it sometimes just needs that one light that will change the way everybody else thinks, and to have that inclusiveness to be able to have the amenities come after.”
So what were some takeaway lessons for CDCs and developers? A lot of them have to do with, again, being mindful of where you are.
Scannapieco said to take the “master” out of “master plan” and just be flexible when creating a space that works with and for the community. Denenberg said it’s important to talk “with people,” not “at people” in the surrounding community.
And for small business owners who are looking to get involved in all of this? Dixon said your local CDC is like the back of that textbook — you can find your answers there. His favorite word is “collaborate.”
“When you work at a CDC or you’re a developer or you’re an incubator, you’re trying to find somebody that completes you,” he added.-30-
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