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Citywide Storefront Challenge Proves “Good Design is Good Business”

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The Community Design Collaborative and the City of Philadelphia’s Commerce Department recently hosted the Citywide Storefront Challenge, an awards program  recognizing attractive, distinctive storefront improvement projects along some of Philadelphia’s neighborhood commercial corridors. The program grew out of the success of the Storefront Improvement Program (SIP), a City program that offers businesses and property owners grants of between $8,000 and $12,000 for storefront improvements.  In his welcoming remarks at the awards presentation, Andy Frishkoff, Director of the Office of Neighborhood and Economic Development , said that the goal of SIP is to “revitalize the city’s business corridors to revitalize their historic roles as businesses and community gathering places.”

According to Frishkoff, $300,000 in City funding has been matched by $1.4 million in private funding since SIP’s start in 2008. The grants have gone towards restoring or renovating 85 storefront facades and creating 277 permanent jobs. Anecdotally, storeowners say that business has improved as people want to shop, work, and meet their neighbors at these more attractive businesses.  

The event celebrated both the success of SIP and the improved storefronts. Nine awards were presented to recognize storefront improvement projects that led to  “night and day” transformations, got the best “bang for the buck,” and served as the “instigator” for other positive changes locally.

Kevin Dow, the Chief Operating Officer and Deputy Director of the Commerce Department presented the awards, saying “small businesses are the driving forces that bring cities out of recession.” Before-and-after images screened at the awards ceremony showed the range of strategies business and property owners are using to spruce up facades. Some projects restored original building details, not always as easy as it appears.  Others added inventive new elements (be sure to take an extra careful look at the Suzuki Piano’s Academy bike racks in our slide show).

The Winners
Award Store
Bang for the Buck Award Hakim's Bookstore
Honor the Past Award La Pearl Beauty Emporium
Unique Sign Honorable Mention Imperial Chinese
Unique Sign Award The Grey Lodge Pub
Night & Day Honorable Mention HACE Business and Visitor's Center
Night & Day Award PA RealtyWorks, LLC
Complete Package Award The Philadelphia Suzuki Piano Academy
The Instigator Award Mt Airy USA

The Collaborative got the opportunity to talk with a couple of the business owners behind the award-winning projects. Donna DeStefano, owner of PA RealtyWorks, located on the XXXX Commercial Corridor, was the recipient of a Night & Day Award. She took on the immense challenge of turning her fire-damaged building into an exemplar of green and environmentally-friendly design. She officially moved in last year, after making a nearly complete overhaul of the interior and exterior of the building.  De Stefano greatly improved the energy efficiency of her building. Now the building serves as an inspiration as DeStefano tells her customers “it’s do as I do” when it comes to going green.

Pearl Bailey-Anderson, owner of La Pearl Beauty Emporium on Lancaster Avenue Commercial Corridor, began renovations nearly four years ago with a simple plan to paint her building. She not only discovered that the building was historically designated but that she was liable for several thousand dollars worth of fines from the Department of Licensing & Inspections. She ended up cobbling together funds to restore her facade, including a $20,000 grant from the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia. Although all the construction to bring the building into compliance took a year and is still ongoing, Anderson says that she “loves it.” The project was occasionally overwhelming but, according to Stephen Horton of the Enterprise Center CDC, there’s a “wow” factor, and the building now serves as a “gateway to Lancaster Avenue.”

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.



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