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Happy Trails: Major improvements approved for the Delaware River Trail

The City Planning Commission recently approved the Penn Street section of the Central Delaware River Trail. Paired with current improvements being made to the Washington Green section of the trail, this represents a major step towards implementing new design standards for the multipurpose trail. 
The Washington Green trail, built in 2010, was laid with basic asphalt and meant to be temporary. Now folks with the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation are taking the next steps to make it permanent. "The route is being straightened to bring it closer to the river," explains Karen Thompson of the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation. "We’re cleaning up the area and removing invasive species to make the trail more user-friendly."
Thompson says these improvements are incremental and will bring that portion of the trail more in line with the new Delaware River Waterfront Corporation design standards for the entire trail.   
Those final design guidelines will be showcased in the Penn Street portion of the trail. "We’re taking all the recommendations from the Waterfront Master Plan and building it here," says Thompson. "To that effect, sustainable design elements include trail-side rain gardens and solar street lights."
The Penn Street trail will connect the future Spring Garden Street greenway to the Central Delaware, where it will run along Delaware Avenue, connect to Penn Street and run though the Sugarhouse Casino parking lot. The Casino has agreed to build the section of the trail through its parking lot, connecting it to an existing trail on the property. 
The Commission’s approval was a big milestone for the project because it has allowed the Waterfront Corporation to move forward with implementation. "The project will go out for construction bid in the next few months," says Thompson. "We hope to start construction at the beginning of 2013 and have it finished by Memorial Day." 

Source: Karen Thompson, Delaware River Waterfront Corporation
WriterGreg Meckstroth

Broad Street Makeover: An urban design competition yields innovative ideas

It's been almost 20 years since the Avenue of the Arts, Inc. (AAI) was founded to oversee the growth and development of Broad Street from Washington Avenue to Glenwood Avenue. As successful as the organization has been in creating a dining and entertainment destination centered on performing arts, there’s been a growing consensus that the area's image needs an update. 

To do this, AAI has partnered with the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) to launch a "New Vision for South Broad Street" competition. The goal is to continue the thoroughfare's original purpose as an arts and entertainment district but with a modern take. Ten architectural and landscape firms submitted ideas, and four were chosen as finalists. Those firms showcased their ideas last week at the Bellevue.    

The final teams—Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, Cairone & Kaupp, Inc., Jonathan Alderson Landscape Architects, Inc. and LRSLA Studio—were tasked with developing contemporary, implementable plans for improving the Avenue’s streetscape.  They were asked to specifically consider innovative uses of light, sound, transportation, navigation, ecology, and economic and residential development. While the goals were the same, the firms’ ideas weren't.

For Jonathan Alderson, founder of Jonathan Alderson Landscape Architects, putting forth an implementable vision was the crux of his firm’s plan. "We wanted to put forth ideas that can happen soon—that are actually do-able," says Alderson, whose vision features the low cost installation of moveable, locally manufactured planters, pop-up performance squares, LED lanterns, bike lanes and mobile light displays. 

For Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, thinking big was the priority. "We saw this competition as a chance to put forth a plan to unite all neighborhoods along Broad Street, from the Navy Yard to Cheltenham Avenue," explained L.B. Young, an associate with Bohlin. "For this reason, our proposal features a number of small and big moves that together create a cohesive identity, so that no matter what part of Broad Street you’re on, you know you’re on Broad Street." Bohlin’s ideas ranged from creating open spaces and rethinking the Avenue’s branding to installing light wells that connect to the underground subway and tying in side streets with lighting and pedestrian connections. 

There were a number of ideas that all four teams seemed to agree on—chief among them activating the Avenue with art.  "It’s called the 'Avenue of the Arts' yet all the art is inside," said Ashley DiCaro of the Cairone & Kaupp, Inc. team. To mitigate this issue, DiCaro’s team (along with the other three) presented plans for turning the buildings inside out, bringing the art to the street. Pop-up performance spaces, large art installations and outdoor concerts were common features in each team’s vision. 

With the public’s interest now piqued, the four teams will officially present their visions this Wednesday, November 14 to a panel of judges and AAI representatives.  A winner will be announced six days later, and by the start of 2014, AAI hopes to begin implementing the winning design. 

Source: Jonathan Alderson, founder of Jonathan Alderson Landscape Architects; L.B. Young, associate at Bohlin Cywinski Jackson; Ashley DiCaro, Interface Studio
WriterGreg Meckstroth

On the Ground: The Frankford Y comes back to life

In 2009, after nearly 70 years in operation, the famed Frankford Y at Arrott and Leiper Streets closed its doors due to funding woes. The past three years have been a struggle—the Y has switched owners more than once, been vandalized numerous times and faced the threat of foreclosure. But now, thanks to the Northwood Civic Association and its vice president Frank Bennett, the historic building is experiencing new life. If all goes according to plan, the Frankford Y will reopen its doors and reclaim its status as a neighborhood institution. 

Even with all the optimism, there are significant hurdles to clear before the building can welcome the community. After years of neglect, some basic necessities need to be taken care of. "Fixing the leaky roof is our top priority," explains Bennett. "That, and getting the electric turned on. The goal right now is just to stabilize the building.”   

Bennett is a long-time member of the Northwood Civic Association and understands the importance of bringing the Y back. "It’s been on the Association’s radar for a while," he explains. "I took a tour of the building and saw the extensive damage caused by vandals, but I still wanted to take it over because it’s such an important asset here." In conjunction with the Civic Association, Bennett was able to take control of the building and form a new board of directors. 

The New Frankford Community Y is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to develop programs that use the facility in a manner that benefits everyone. "We want to activate parts of the facility, including getting a day care tenant, utilizing the weight room as a multi-purpose room, offering GED courses and training, and a whole host of other activities centered on enabling individuals to achieve more than what they have today," say Bennett. If this initial plan proves successful, Bennett and the board want to eventually reopen the pool.

Figuring out the long-term plan for the Y is extremely important; Bennett says that if the board can put together a strong business plan, the bank will forgive a current outstanding mortgage of more than $200,000 on the property. This would be a significant boon for the board and the facility, which currently lacks the resources to tackle a financial burden this steep. 

For now, Bennett and the board are focused on that leaky roof and securing insurance for the property. "There’s still a lot of work to do," says Bennett. "Slowly but surely though, the Frankford Y is coming back to life.” 

Source: Frank Bennett, Northwood Civic Association
WriterGreg Meckstroth

$200k in targeted fa�ade improvements coming to Frankford Ave.

Thanks to a number of public funding sources and the efforts of Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez, the entire 4600 block of Frankford Avenue is set to receive $200,000 in targeted façade improvements as part of the Commerce Department’s Storefront Improvement Program.  The funds are allocated, business owners have signed on, contract bids are out, and work is set to begin in earnest in January. 

“We want to make a big bang,” says Tracy O’Drain with the Frankford CDC. “That’s why we’re targeting the 4600 block of Frankford Ave.  It’s in the heart of the business district, has the highest concentration of businesses and has the potential to catalyze additional revitalization efforts nearby.” 

O’Drain says not every building will receive improvements because, quite simply, not all need it.  But for those that do, new awnings, windows, painting, signage and some good old façade scrubbing is how the money will be spent.  “We’re working with the business owners to identify exactly what they need and how best to utilize the funds we have.”    
O’Drain believes the most important aspect of the façade improvement program is its integral role in the much bigger effort to improve Frankford Avenue.  “Mural Arts is in the process of developing a series of murals along the Avenue, we’re in the process of rolling out an ‘art in vacant spaces’ initiative and since September, we’ve been implementing a commercial corridor cleaning program with funds from the Commerce Department,” she said.  “We know that a cleaner Frankford Avenue will lead to increased commerce and safety, and add to the sense of pride that we should all take in Frankford.”

The cleaning program is a one-time, yearlong event, so O’Drain and the CDC hopes to make the effort last and thinks the façade improvement initiative is a way to do that.  “In the future, the commercial corridor manager, Michelle Feldman, can use the façade improvements as an example of how other blocks can implement similar changes and keep the blocks clean for a more sustainable Frankford Avenue.” 

Source: Tracy O’Drain, Frankford CDC
WriterGreg Meckstroth

Project H.O.M.E. brings TOD, affordable housing to Francisville via new construction

JBJ Soul Homes, formerly known as Fairmount Gardens, unofficially broke ground in early October at the intersection of Fairmount and Ridge Avenues in Francisville.  And two weeks from today an official groundbreaking ceremony with Mayor Nutter and Jon Bon Jovi will commemorate the construction of a new project that is being heralded as one of the most important along the burgeoning North Broad Corridor and promises to act as a catalyst for future investment. 
So why all the excitement over JBJ Soul Homes?  “It’s the ultimate win-win,” says Joan McCann of Project H.O.M.E , the non-profit homeless advocacy group behind the new four-story, 75,000+ square foot facility.  “The project brings together affordable housing, mostly geared towards the homeless, office space for Project H.O.M.E, and retail space for the neighborhood.”   Make that a win-win-win.   
Specifically, the facility will include 47 efficiency apartments and eight one-bedrooms, minimal parking due to the nearby subway stop, and 12,000 square feet of retail space that can accommodate one user or be split into three spaces.    
Laura Weinbaum of Project H.O.M.E says the group had their eye on the tract of land for a long time and wanted to build affordable housing there.  “We wanted affordable housing in close proximity to our offices at 1515 Fairmount Avenue and thought this site was perfect.  The Fairmount health center is nearby, the subway is right there and the neighborhood has a lot of amenities to offer.”
So they approached another prominent non-profit in the neighborhood, People For People, which owned the land. “They didn’t want to sell the land, but agreed to lease it to us so long as the project included retail space that catered to the needs of the community,” explains Weinabum who says as part of the agreement, People For People will manage the retail space.      
Weinbaum says one of the goals of the retail space is to re-establish Fairmount and Ridge Avenues as commercial corridors in Francisville.  To that effect, the commercial storefronts will be located on the first floor of the building along both Ridge and Fairmount Avenues and Ridge Avenue and Fifteenth Street, and is expected to establish a strong visual gateway into the neighborhood.    
The official groundbreaking ceremony is taking place Tuesday, Nov. 13th, from 11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.  After that Weinbaum expects construction should last for roughly one year and be open sometime next fall or early winter.

Source: Joan McCann and Laura Weinbaum, Project H.O.M.E.
WriterGreg Meckstroth

New Brewerytown development to house social innovators that will benefit all of Philadelphia

“Creative Urban Renewal” – that’s the mantra behind Twenty Nineteen, LLC, a new, first of its kind, center for social innovators who have an itch to work on the social and environmental problems that Philadelphia faces.    

“The new center is for those who can't just take off a year or six months without income, yet have really cool, viable ideas or working ventures for improving urban problems,” explains Martin Montero, one of the forces behind Twenty Nineteen.  He says the center is mostly aimed for folks in their 20s who “still have a lot freedom to pick up and move to start something new on a shoestring.”

Montero thinks the new center, which is located at 2019 College Street in Brewerytown, will help better connect individuals to Philly’s civic issues, bringing about engagement in ways that aren’t currently possible.  “By default, folks with money, family connections or political influence are those best suited to make social change,” says Montero.  “One of the goals of Twenty Nineteen is to open that opportunity up to others and give them resources and connections they might not otherwise have.”    

A big part of that opportunity will come by way of the center’s physical location.  The model calls for three connected row houses that will house 18 people with an open communal space on the first floor for hosting community events or having visitors.  Rent will be $450/month, but three to six of those folks will get room and board stipends for one year In exchange for a full-time work commitment (50-60 hours a week) to launch or join a social venture that directly benefits Philadelphia. 

An interesting caveat to Twenty Nineteen is that the social innovators who move into the house have to commit to three years of living in Philadelphia.  “This is a unique aspect of the house as compared to similar ventures across the country,” says Montero.  “We want to make sure Philly really benefits from the ideas being generated here.”   

So what kind of ideas the team hoping will come out of Twenty Nineteen?  “Anything from nutrition, health care, green energy to improving civic engagement,” says Montero.  “The goal of the house is to solve some of the City’s greatest urban problems.” 

To help make this goal a reality, Montero and his collaborators are teaming up with Girard College.  “The house is located next door so it makes perfect sense to utilize the College’s campus resources,” says Montero.  “In return, Girard students will have access to the social innovators for an after school/weekend option for apprenticeships centered on several Philly centric civic engagement/social innovation projects.” 

Montero hopes the young adults will serve as role models for the students and catalyze increased civic engagement in a neighborhood that could use some increased attention. 

Twenty Nineteen is ready to kick off a one year pilot project with six social innovators from local organizations here in Philly.  “We actually handpicked the first round of innovators,” says Montero who explained they did so to create an initial healthy ecosystem and ensure diverse ideas were represented.  During the next year, Montero hopes to work out the kinks of the house, finish lining up sponsors and put them in a position to fully launch with 18 innovators come next fall.    

Source: Martin Montero, Twenty Nineteen, LLC
WriterGreg Meckstroth

Three Down, 15 to go for Philadelphia 2035 as Lower Northeast District Plan adopted

Last week, the Philadelphia City Planning Commission adopted the Lower Northeast District Plan as part of the city’s Philadelphia 2035 Comprehensive Plan.  The Lower Northeast joins West Park and Lower South as having finished and adopted plans, leaving 15 more districts still to come over the coming years.   

The Lower Northeast covers the ever-evolving neighborhoods of Frankford, Lawncrest, Oxford Circle and Northwood and was particularly impactful because of the unique problems the area faces.  A number of these issues culminated in the plan’s focus areas, which include the Frankford Transportation Center, Frankford Gateway and Castor Avenue. 

The Plan indicates that nearly 1 in 5 Lower Northeast residents do not have health insurance and that wait times at health centers across the city are increasingly long.  To remediate this issue, the Plan calls for the creation of three health centers in the neighborhood, with one adjacent to the Frankford Transportation Center. 

This does two things, says Jennifer Barr with the City Planning Commission -- it increases the amount of needed health centers in the immediate area and substantially increases access for residents across the region. 

“Some 680,000 Philadelphians can reach the Frankford Transportation Center without a connection,” says Barr, “this is the ideal place to create a destination for health services because access is so high but also because a large amount of people are already passing through the Center on a daily basis.”   

The Frankford Center focus area was not particularly controversial.  Other areas weren’t so lucky.  The Castor Avenue focus area recommendations caused a bit of controversy, as they call for an upzone of the corridor into a mixed-use, higher density district.  This means allowing buildings to reach heights of 55 feet and encouraging residential uses above storefronts – something that doesn’t exist now.

Barr indicates that despite a small group of citizens who opposed the idea, this provision was actually supported by most of the community, likely because it makes perfect sense from a planning perspective. 

“There is a lot of demand for housing in the area with little room to expand,” says Barr.  “With Castor Avenue struggling as a commercial corridor, encouraging residential density can rejuvenate the corridor while increasing residential housing options.”

The plan’s third focus area is Frankford Gateway along Frankford Avenue, an area full of underutilized industrial buildings but full of potential.  “With the success of nearby Globe Dye Works into a thriving artist community, we have a prime example of utilizing old industrial buildings for modern day needs,” says Barr, “these buildings are an important part of Frankford’s heritage so we want to protect them and encourage their reuse.” 

To this end, the plan recommends changing the zoning along the Avenue from ICMX to a new classification – IRMX - which allows for live/work spaces geared towards these large industrial structures.

With these issues dealt with in meaningful ways and the Plan officially adopted, attention has moved on to the Center City plan, which is currently underway and the University City plan, which will begin shortly.  These districts, too, face a series of unique issues that will be fleshed out and addressed over the coming months.  Center City’s next public meeting will be held on Oct. 22 and University City’s plan is set to begin Nov. 13. 

Source: Jennifer Barr, City Planning Commission
Writer: Greg Meckstroth

Modern makers: Lots worth a second look inside The Hatchatory in East Kensington

From the outside, the Hatchatory looks like just another vacant warehouse, blocking views of the river in this once-bustling hub of East Kensington. You might not notice its shining gates, upcycled from steel that formerly covered each window; or the fresh coat of paint upon its windowsills. The bright orange door might catch your attention—a dazzling point against bricks and mortar. However, even if you did notice the door, you probably wouldn’t realize the weight of its symbolism—a happy meeting of old and new—or imagine the incredibly creative things happening behind it.
Billed as a “unique workspace for interesting small businesses and interesting people, the building at 2628 Martha St. houses 26 workspaces and dozens of maker-types who bring an artisan approach to manufacturing of all kinds.
Just a few weeks ago, Flying Kite took a peek inside at one of the Hatchatory’s tenants, the custom denim and leather goods makers at Norman Porter Company.
Fancy Time Studio is one of the Hatchatory’s other interesting makers. The recording studio is owned and operated by producer Kyle "Slick" Johnson, who has worked with bands such as Cymbals Eat Guitars, Rogue Wave, Wavves, Modest Mouse and Philly's own Creepoid. Beth Beverly uses her space at the Hatchatory to create alternative millinery and sculpture with natural fibers and ethically sourced fur and feathers. Another creative business that has set up shop there is Great Graphics, a screen printing business started by two Tyler School of Art graduates 30 years ago. It provides service to artists and commercial clients on fabrics, metal, wood, plastic and glass.
Built in 1895, the Hatchatory’s walls first housed a soap and a caulk factory. After about a century, the plant closed, ending its manufacturing days. But six years later, in 2003, Gerard Galster Jr. bought the property. Instead of demolishing the building, he asked his friend Russell Mahoney, a recent grad with a master’s degree from Taliesin, the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, to make it useful once again.
“When you knock down a perfectly good old building to put in a new ‘green’ one, all of its static carbon is released into the atmosphere. That’s a true crime in sustainable design,” Mahoney says.
The superintendant l’extraordinaire also operates his own design collective and workshop, Broken Arrow, at the Hatchatory. He admits that it is less expensive to replace old with new, but his team at Broken Arrow is dedicated to making it cheaper and more practical. They apply this practice to everything, including old desks from the soap factory days, which they refurbished for the Hatchatory’s workspaces.
Mahoney’s team has adapted those workspaces to modern loft units with original exposed brick, beams and hardwood floors. Each is equipped with state-of-the-art ductless heating and cooling systems and floor-to-ceiling windows that bathe the rooms in natural light.
Common areas in the Hatchatory are also repurposed for maximum use. Recently its garage space hosted WAMB, a Fringe Festival performance that took advantage of the wide-open space by draping circus rings and hoops from ropes on the rafters. The third floor open area provides a perfect space for tenants to exhibit art and sell products, and down the hall Mahoney is working on a communal area with couches and a kitchen.
Source: Russell Mahoney, The Hatchatory
Writer: Nicole Woods

Paschall Village Wins Award for Design Excellence

In December 2011, Southwest Philadelphia gleefully celebrated the opening of Paschall Village, the Philadelphia Housing Authority’s pilot project for high-performance sustainable development.  Since then, the project has been heralded for its contemporary, contextually sensitive footprint and its ambitious green features, including central geothermal heating and cooling, solar domestic hot water, solar panels, rainwater harvesting/irrigation system, and more.  And last week, Paschall was officially recognized for this cutting edge design excellence.
Paschall, which is bounded by 72nd Street, Paschall Avenue, Cobbs Creek Parkway, and Lloyd Street in Southwest Philadelphia, received PAHRA’s Bellamy Award for Housing. The recognition honors the best in design and construction projects by affordable housing agencies across Pennsylvania.  PHA's win was no small feat – in a state of 89 housing authorities Paschall came out on top.
“We are thrilled to receive this award from our fellow professionals,” said Kelvin Jeremiah, PHA’s Interim Executive Director. “It’s always our goal to make a lasting, positive impact on neighborhoods and become a catalyst for long-term, local economic growth. Receiving this type of recognition from your peers for a sustainable, environmentally friendly housing development is a great honor and PHA is committed to doing more of this work in the future.” 
Judges were impressed with the Paschall Village bid for a number of reasons.  For one, its efficiency standards stood above the rest - the development features impressive savings for PHA, standing at an estimated 30%-35% per month.  Further, the use of open space, pervious pavements (over 92,000 square feet) and other green infrastructure reduces the development’s runoff footprint on the City’s stormwater systems. 
Paschall also received high marks for the multiple sources of funding and partnerships PHA made to make the development a reality.
Paschall Village replaced Paschall Apartments, a poorly designed, mid-1960s-era public housing complex that unfortunately became the center of poverty, drugs and crime.  Through smart urban design and sustainability features, Paschall Village seems to have improved the character and safety of the community.  And now, with the Bellamy Award under its belt, it’s clear that Paschall Village has greatly improved community pride as well.

Source: Kelvin Jeremiah, PHA’s Interim Executive Director
WriterGreg Meckstroth

Out of the ashes in Kensington, Phoenix Community Park�s future remains in limbo

It’s no secret that vacant land is a serious problem in Philadelphia, particularly in sections of North Philadelphia where years of neglect and abandonment have left physical scars to the area’s built environment.  There are numerous organizations, non-profits and city efforts that combat the issue; in Kensington, a group of grassroots organizers and residents have taken a particularly aggressive approach.

At H Street and Westmoreland, the green, lush Phoenix Community Park now sits on what was once considered a vacant lot.  But the land wasn’t always considered so -- a large, abandoned horse blanket factory once stood here. Five years ago, the facility turned to ash in a 7-alarm fire that also spread to 19 homes nearby. Thankfully, no one was killed. 

Shane Claiborne, a longtime neighborhood resident, was particularly affected by the blaze – his home was completely destroyed.  But instead of bemoaning his circumstances, he and other neighborhood activists decided to turn the tragedy into a neighborhood asset. 

Through his non-profit The Simple Way, a Christian community services group, the group raised money and acquired the land where the rowhouses once stood, turning the lots into community gardens.

But across the street where the factory burnt down, loose dirt whipped across the neighborhood like a scene out of Little House on the Prairie.    

Claiborne says the city’s laissez-faire attitude about remediating the eyesore encouraged residents to fix the problem themselves.  Through donated time and funds, local volunteers earned a year-to-year lease of the lot to turn it into a park.  In no time, they cleaned up the site, placed used painted tires around the perimeter to demarcate the space and renamed it Phoenix Community Park.

Through these efforts and thanks to The Daily News bringing light to the subject, the city took notice and started putting resources towards The Simple Way’s efforts, even though the lot was still technically publicly owned. 

At a time that marked the five-year anniversary of the factory fire, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society planted grass and trees at the site and installed a wooden fence around the perimeter.  The now iconic painted tires are still there, complete with a large and in charge mural on a nearby building wall. 

With this momentum behind them, and nearly 1,000 signatures to boot, Claiborne and others now want the space officially designated as a City park.  No more year-to-year lease.  Unfortunately this is easier said than done; since the site is not officially designated as a park, a very real threat remains that the lot could be sold off to private interests for development. 

“We are thrilled by the greening of this lot,” explains Claiborne, “but we also have a ways to go on making it a permanent park.  We need it officially recognized by Parks and Rec.” 

Doing so would protect the lot from development and formalize the City’s role in maintaining the space.  It would also allow the community to make improvements in more meaningful ways.  “A ‘park’ designation would allow us to build on new additions like playground equipment without the fear that it could all be squashed and developed with the year to year agreement,” says Claiborne.

Mayor Michael Nutter has recommended that the Parks and Recreation Department take over nearly 500 acres of land for park space.  Claiborne believes Phoenix Park should be part of this initiative and hopes the Mayor and others hear Kensington’s simple, to the point message on the matter. 

“We want it to be permanent, and have hundreds of neighbors who agree.”

Source: Shane Claiborne, Neighborhood Organizer, Founder of The Simple Way
WriterGreg Meckstroth

Phase One of Bailey Street Arts Corridor starting construction in Brewerytown

The industrial buildings surrounding the 1500 block of N. Bailey Street in Brewerytown have always been known for making and producing things.  But in a tale all too common in urban core neighborhoods, years of neglect and disinvestment have left parts of the neighborhood feeling desolate and forgotten.  More recently, however, as a number of artists have moved into these buildings for live-work purposes, bringing with them real estate developers’ interest and money, the area is reinventing itself, once again producing things but with completely different means and ends.  

Now dubbed the ‘Bailey Streets Arts Corridor,’ according to local ceramic artist and college professor Michael Connelly, the name is well-earned.  “There are now 10 nationally respected ceramics artists living and working within a three-block radius, as well as painters, woodworkers, and a choreographer,” explains Connelly.  "Plus, 12 contributing buildings (commercial and residential) along the Corridor are now under the control of local artists and investors."    

Connelly has been a chief driver of establishing the arts corridor, and is responsible for attracting other artists to invest.  He has also put his money where his mouth is, recently purchasing two properties on North Bailey Street that he hopes to rent out to community artists at affordable prices.

He’s also investing in large renovation projects, more recently converting an old warehouse studio space.  He believes this project in particular will help the corridor reach a critical mass and really take off.  Working closely with his colleague Robert Sutherland, a ceramic artist and general contractor/builder, they have officially started Phase One work on the project, already securing the exterior walls and conducting interior demolition.

Connelly’s work and the resulting conglomeration of artists along Bailey Street got the attention of development and construction firm, MM Partners LLC, who saw the corridor’s progress and even bigger potential for increased investment.  In no time, the company bought up the famous W.G. Schweiker Co. building at the intersection of Jefferson and Bailey Street with plans to renovate it into something beneficial to area artists. 

According to Jacob Roller, co-managing partner at MM Partners, they immediately went to Connelly to gain ideas about what exactly to do with the building.  He recommended converting the space into live-work units for artists, something he saw as severely lacking in the Philadelphia region.

MM Partners is now following Connelly’s advice, filling out the Schweiker building with nine live-work units.  Roller hopes the renovated space will quickly become an anchor along the burgeoning corridor and provide a unique opportunity for area artists looking to save a little money on rent by putting studio space under the same roof as their bed.    

From here on out, Connelly hopes more and more artists and investors will continue to be attracted to the area. 

“Numerous artists have already followed our lead by moving into our rental properties on Bailey Street, as well as infilling the surrounding blocks,” he says.  “Moving forward, we are hoping the artists decide to invest in our area by purchasing property and further solidifying a creative arts vernacular of the community.” 

Source: Jacob Roller, Co-Managing Partner at MM Partners; Michael Connelly, Ceramic Artist/College Professor
WriterGreg Meckstroth

University City's Woodland Ave. to ring in Philadelphia's push for pedestrian plazas

Pedestrianizing spaces once dominated by auto users is not a foreign concept to modern American cities.  Pop-up cafes, parklets and the well-known PARK(ing) Day jumpstarted nationwide movements aimed at improving the pedestrian experience in cities and caused numerous city leaders to implement similar, more permanent solutions in their respective cities.  Today, New York City has their now infamous pedestrian plazas in Times Square and Herald Square, San Francisco has their Pavement to Parks initiatives and Indianapolis went on a significant road diet with the completion of their innovative Cultural Trail.
The City of Philadelphia, too, has joined in on the movement with their Pedestrian Plaza Program, which seeks to reclaim unused stretches of asphalt and concrete by turning them into new public plazas and parks.  And now, over in University City, at 42nd and Woodland, the first plaza to be created under this Program will be unveiled later this week, with the help of Mayor Nutter and the University City District (UCD). 
Last year, the City awarded three grants through its Pedestrian Plaza Program. UCD was the recipient of two of those grants; next year, expect another pedestrian plaza to be unveiled at 48th Street and Baltimore Avenue.  This improvement, along with the under-construction, University of Pennsylvania-funded Spruce Street Plaza at 33rd and 34th Streets and The Porch at 30th Street Station, signifies University City gets what other cities do nationwide: there is an ever-increasing demand for pedestrian amenities in our urban cores. 
But the demand for creating pedestrian plazas in Philly far exceeds what these three grants cover.  And not every neighborhood can benefit from large institutions like Penn to cover the associated costs.  At the neighborhood level, groups along Passyunk Avenue have been working for years to implement or improve pedestrian plazas, with setbacks sometimes outnumbering progress. 
Along Grays Ferry Avenue in Graduate Hospital, the Triangles on Grays Ferry Avenue Gateway Project was formed to promote pedestrianizing traffic triangles along Grays Ferry Avenue at 23rd and South Streets as well as Bainbridge Street.  According to Tanya Seaman, Former Chair of the Grays Ferry Triangle group, the goals are in line with other pedestrian plaza efforts across the city: increase neighborhood identity, improve the pedestrian experience and spur economic development.
But without the backing of a citywide Pedestrian Plaza Program and no significant examples to point to, the group’s efforts have thus far been slow in progress and met skeptical critics. 
Seaman hopes that will soon change and believes the University City plazas will help shift the paradigm.  “The University City plazas will provide successful examples that we can point to when trying to implement our own improvements,” explains Seaman, “they will help increase awareness and excitement about what we’re trying to do in Graduate Hospital.”
According to Seaman, the group is in the schematic design phase of their efforts.  Once that is completed, they will take their ideas to local businesses and the community to elicit support and make the case for why pedestrian plazas will improve the Grays Ferry Corridor and the neighborhood in general.  Without the City’s Plaza Program’s help, Seaman is hopeful that if successful, the group’s efforts can be used as a model for how to implement pedestrian improvements at a neighborhood, grass roots level. 

Source: Tanya Seaman, Former Chair, Grays Ferry Triangle Group
WriterGreg Meckstroth

Pole-painting, sculpture part of 40th St. beautification project

The 40th Street area between Market Street and Lancaster Avenue will look a little brighter in the coming weeks.  The street, which serves as a link between the West Powelton and Mantua neighborhoods, is undergoing an enhancement that is being called The 40th Street Beautification Project.

“This will be a good way to showcase the area and give it a unique identity,” said Zac Sivertsen, who is co-manager of the project and the manager of neighborhood initiatives and resource planning for the Community Development Corporation, the real estate division of People’s Emergency Center.

PECCDC's focus on enhancing the neighborhood with greenery and art is moving forward thanks to the Vital Neighborhoods Initiative grant from the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia. The greenery portion of the project was completed last fall with tree plantings along the area’s sidewalks.   

Art is the final element of 40th Street’s rejuvenation. Local artists will paint the green SEPTA trolley poles with bright, vibrant colors. Weeds and shrubs surrounding the lots in the area will be replaced with flowerbeds.

A unique piece of art - specially designed for the 40th Street project - made of steel and mosaic glass will grace the fenced area near Pro Gulf Automotive Service and Repair between Baring and Spring Garden streets.  The sculpture, designed by local artists Emilie Ledieu and Bill Capozzoli, represents a tree.  

One goal is to encourage people to walk down the street and explore the Lower Lancaster avenue corridor, which PECCDC is working toward revitalizing.

“We want to draw people down the street both ways,” said Sivertsen.

James Wright, commercial corridor manager at PEC and co-manager of the 40th Street Beautification project, said that although there are many well-maintained homes on the block, the area needs a “little bit of love.”  

Source: Zac Siversten and James Wright, People's Emergency Center Community Development Corporation
Writer: Zenovia Campbell

BICYCLE COALITION: One down, one to go for bike corrals in Fishtown

Editor's note: This is presented as a content partnership with the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia.

Many would argue that one thing missing from all the food, music and general merriment that goes down nightly at Johnny Brenda's and Kung Fu Necktie in Fishtown is a secure place to leave your bike.
Last week, Kung Fu Necktie earned community support for its bike corral and tonight (Tuesday, Aug. 21) is a chance for local residents to make sure it become a reality for JB's, thanks in part to the City of Philadelphia's offer for in-street bike parking to interested businesses.
All Fishtown residents and busienss owners should head to the Fishtown Rec Center (1202 E. Montgomery Ave.) tonight at 7 to support the JB's corral. Folks should bring proof of residence or business ownership. 
Philadelphia has released a draft versino of its Complete Streets Design handbook, which aims to account for all road users in road construction projects.
That means adequate sidewalks, travel lanes, bike lanes and curb extensions/bump-outs.
Want your voice heard? Your community can request a briefing from the Mayor's Office of Transportation and Utilities. Send comments and questions to Ariel Ben-Amos ([email protected]).
A new weekend bike policy was issued for the Atlantic City Line last two weeks ago, as NJ Transit will permit 12 bikes per train, a policy also in effect for rail lines in North Jersey ending in Hoboken or Newark. 

THE BICYCLE COALITION OF GREATER PHILADELPHIA has been making the region a better place to ride a bike through advocacy, education, and outreach since 1972. The nonprofit, membership organization's programs include Bike Philly, the Bicycle Ambassadors, Safe Routes Philly, the Complete the Schuylkill River Trail campaign, and Neighborhood Bike Works (now an independent organization). Follow the Bicycle Coalition on FacebookTwitter, and on their blog.

Send feedback here.

Brewerytown, Fairmount, Francisville, Strawberry Mansion band together for Night Out

Acts of solidarity and partnership took the form of loud beating drums last night in Francisville as local school marching bands led groups of community members and civic leaders on a walk through city streets for Lower North/Central North Philadelphia’s National Night Out Stroll.

In its 29th year of existence, the National Night Out campaign involves citizens, law enforcement officials, civic groups, and other stakeholders from over 15,000 communities in all 50 states who band together and heighten crime and drug prevention awareness, as well as generate support for, and participate in, local anti-crime programs.  In Philly’s Francisville, Fairmount, Strawberry Mansion, and Greater Brewerytown neighborhoods, neighbors and partners showed their solidarity by leaving their porch lights on and strolling the streets together, beginning at the Arts Garage in Francisville and ending at Mander Recreation Center in Strawberry Mansion. 

But this year, Philly’s stroll brings an extra oomph of significance, showcasing the area's ability to work together for common goals. The following organizations joined forces for Night Out: Francisville Neighborhood Development Corporation, Fairmount Communty Development Corporation, Greater Brewerytown Community Development Corporation, Strawberry Mansion Neighborhood Action Center, Strawberry Mansion Community Development Corporation, West Girard Community Council, Project H.O.M.E., and the Arts Garage.

According to Naomi Robertson with the Fairmount Community Development Corporation, this collaboration is what sets their event apart from similar events across the city and nationwide. 

“The fact that we were able to get so many community organizations together makes our event very unique.  All of the organizations serve as community beacons, so it was extremely important to have them involved, as they would be the ones to garner support from their respective communities.”  

Event organizers believe the collaboration between neighborhoods will go a long way towards many positive outcomes, including making residents feel safer and more connected to their neighbors.  “While Philadelphia is called ‘the city of neighborhoods’ there are times when those distinctions can make it seem like every neighborhood is an island of its own,” says Robertson, “and we wanted to show that that's not the case.  It’s a way for us all to celebrate together, to walk with each other, have our children talk to each other, and break down some of the barriers we've placed up.” 

For Lower North/Central North Philadelphia, crime prevention and awareness won't stop here.  Robertson and other civic leaders hope the collaboration continues at unprecedented levels, starting with assigning responsibility and disseminating information among residents.  “A big piece of National Night Out is developing and supporting Block Watch and Block Captain initiatives, and we believe empowering block captains is the most effective way to engage the rest of the community.”    

Writer: Greg Meckstroth
Source: Naomi Robertson, Fairmount Community Development Corporation
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