At 8:30 a.m. bright and early on a Thursday morning, a group of local business owners and intern architects were huddled over photos and diagrams in the Frankford Community Development Corporation’s office sketching and discussing lighting and signage.
The meeting was organized by the Community Design Collaborative as part of the rStore program, which provides preliminary design consultations to groups of small business owners organized by community-based nonprofits. Each rStore project includes a consultation day in which storeowners meet one-on-one with volunteer design professionals.
Frankford CDC applied for an rStore service grant to support their efforts to strengthen the commercial corridor along North Frankford Avenue and foster community engagement and economic development through engaging design. The Frankford commercial corridor presents unique challenges due to the Market-Frankford Elevated Line running over the street, which requires strategies for encouraging foot traffic as well as creating facades that engage passengers in the elevated trains.
Intern architects Michelle Shuman, Karena Thurston and Alexander Will volunteered with the Collaborative to work with six storeowners from the Frankford Avenue commercial corridor recruited by the Frankford CDC. The businesses ranged from clothing boutiques to tattoo shops, including Dream Girls, Avenue Shoes, Gilbert’s Upholstery, Mark My Flesh Tattoo, Cramer’s Kiddie Shop and Action Printing.
Each business owner met with a designer for an hour to discuss their concerns, look at photos and diagrams, and consider potential solutions. They discussed types of lighting, window displays, signage and exterior building materials. The volunteer team will now use the input to develop sketches and preliminary cost estimates that will be given to the business owners and Frankford CDC.
A variety of ideas were suggested, ranging from painting murals on security grills to enhancing the historical elements of buildings to installing window planters. The group also discussed some overall strategies that would give the corridor a unified identity, like symbols projected onto buildings.
Theresa Hanas, Main Street Coordinator at Frankford CDC, was very excited about the opportunity to work with designers and believes the renderings and innovative ideas will help them apply for grants to fund improvements and advance efforts to revitalize the community.