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A New Look Under the El

Six storeowners along North Frankford Avenue now have a new vision for enhancing their storefronts, thanks to the efforts of Collaborative volunteers who worked with the storeowners to develop conceptual designs for façade improvements.

Intern architects Michelle Shuman, Karena Thurston and Alexander Will and cost estimator Scott Dalinka volunteered with the Collaborative through its rStore program to work with the six business owners recruited by Theresa Hanas, Frankford Community Development Corporation’s Main Street Coordinator.
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The improvements are part of Frankford CDC’s larger plans for revitalizing Frankford Avenue. As one of six neighborhood business districts in the Philadelphia area that participates in the Main Street Program, Frankford CDC has developed a multi-pronged approach to economic revitalization. The program encourages a strategic emphasis on Design, Promotion, Organization, and Economic Restructuring.

“Working with designers is awesome.  It puts ideas out there that the business owners and I would not have come up with on our own,” said Hanas.

The volunteers’ design work addresses issues ranging from boarded-up windows to outdated signage and includes suggestions for sidewalk planters, awnings, signs and graphics, lighting, security enhancements, and masonry cleaning and repair.  The volunteers looked at ways to give the stores identity and enhance their best architectural features, while engaging both pedestrians on the street and those traveling via the Market-Frankford Elevated Line, which passes directly over Frankford Avenue.

In January, each Collaborative volunteer met individually the owners of Dream Girls, Avenue Shoes, Gilbert’s Upholstery, Mark My Flesh Tattoo, Cramer’s Kiddie Shop and Action Printing.  The volunteers took that input and developed designs to meet the needs of the storeowners.  The intern architects then reviewed their plans with a volunteer cost estimator.  By including multiple stages of improvements, the team aimed to provide the business owners with a basic scope of work that could be implemented immediately, as well as a road map for ‘dreaming big’ and making more extensive improvements.

The final design sketches and cost estimates will help the business owners and Frankford CDC apply for funding to implement the plans through the City of Philadelphia’s Storefront Improvement Program and the Merchant’s Fund.  In addition to these potential grant sources, Frankford CDC hopes to be able to provide additional support to offset the business owners’ financial contributions.

Making commercial corridors more attractive and welcoming destinations supports their vital function as sustainable economic drivers that create jobs, revenue and a sense of community.

Read the earlier post about the design consultations.


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