What a bus ride up North Broad Street showed about its potential future - Generocity Philly

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Jun. 14, 2017 11:38 am

What a bus ride up North Broad Street showed about its potential future

North Broad Renaissance, the city-funded nonprofit tasked with revitalizing the commercial corridor, has been busy making connections and improvements since it started working two years ago.

All aboard.

(Photo by Albert Hong)

For its last stakeholder meeting of the fiscal year, North Broad Renaissance (NBR) wanted to do something a bit more engaging than a PowerPoint presentation on the progress being made with its five-year plan to revitalize North Broad Street’s commercial corridor.

So instead, Shalimar Thomas, executive director of the city-funded nonprofit acting as a Special Service District, rented a bus for community members and stakeholders to go for a ride up North Broad Street from City Hall to Germantown Avenue this past Thursday.

With Thomas as the tour guide, it was a way for people to see firsthand some of the work that’s been done by the organization to improve the area by the year 2020, according to four areas of focus:

  • Cleaning and safety
  • Maintenance and landscaping
  • Marketing and communications
  • Economic development

Making North Broad clean and safe is one of NBR’s key projects because, as Thomas put it, public perception plays a huge part in the business development of an area which in turn helps lead to more economic and employment opportunities. It’s why NBR hired vendor TWB Cleaning Contractors in October 2016 to clean up specific sites through July, she said. NBR has also been working closely with the Office of Innovation and Technology to help manage seven new safety cameras.

NBR’s sustainability and green spaces effort were kicked off with the installation of several green planters, which were done in partnership with Temple University student volunteers for their Global Day of Service.

The bridge where a camera will be installed to increase visibility and safety along North Broad. (Photo by Albert Hong)

The bridge where a camera will be installed to increase visibility and safety along North Broad. (Photo by Albert Hong)

Throughout the tour, Thomas wanted to make it clear that her org isn’t working alone in these efforts, pointing out, for instance, how partners such as Netrality Properties and its expansive office space on 401 N. Broad St. will help in bringing tech companies to the area. Thomas said the company is currently working on bringing a “major tech company” into Netrality’s building to help bring jobs and tech opportunities to students and community residents.

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NBR is looking to partner with other socially minded organizations in the area, such as Project HOME, which is developing new apartment units on 2415 N. Broad St. and just recently started accepting applications for those units, and Volunteers of America, which owns the property at 2901 N. Broad St.

For the latter, the goal is “to partner with them in a way that engages their population and the community to beautify the green space next to the building, as well as our planters around the area,” Thomas said in a follow-up email. “For example, if we can teach their residents about landscaping, that could be an employment opportunity where we can hire them to help maintain the green space in the area.”

NBR is also proposing a “health zone” near Temple University Hospital, where it hopes to attract more health-related businesses. The project has personal meaning for Thomas, who said she grew up in the area and that the area is one of the sickest ZIP codes in Philly when it comes to preventable diseases.

And yes, when it comes to those “confusing” light poles lining North Broad, she said there will be no more and that we can expect some real results from them soon — if you’re curious to see for yourself, Thomas said to check out the test pole in front of the Liacouras Center once the sun sets.

The view of North Broad Street facing Temple University Hospital and Center City. (Photo by Flickr user tehshadowbat, used via a Creative Commons license)

North Broad is seeing a boom in development and NBR has been working closely with many of the people associated with those new projects, including:

  • Community development corporation Uptown Entertainment & Development Corporation and its work renovating the famous Uptown Theater
  • SEPTA and improving the conditions of the Susquehanna-Dauphin Station
  • The developers working to renovate the Philadelphia Metropolitan House, which Live Nation recently signed on to support
  • New York-based construction company HFZ Capital and its development of office space at Broad and Glenwood streets to help bring in small businesses in the professional service industry

While the bus tour and NBR’s revitalization efforts ends at Germantown Avenue, close to the now-leasing Beury Building, Thomas said NBR is also looking to stay involved in the communities outside its development area and work with other partners and nonprofits in the pursuit of answering its continuing question:

“How can our organization help you?”

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