Every two years, the Community Design Collaborative and Philadelphia Department of Commerce convene the diverse champions of commercial corridor revitalization during DesignPhiladelphia to share their experiences, seek out advice, and discover new resources and strategies. We've shared a sampling of photos from the event above. View more photos here.
Corridor Realities 2017 featured the following speakers:
- Herman Nyamunga, Director, Global Enterprise Hub & Small Business Development, Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians
- Vanessa Caracoza, Business Advisor, Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians
- Alisa McCann, Architectural Historian
- Andrew Dalzell, Chief of Staff, PA State Representative Jared Solomon
- Brad Dakake, Project Development Manager, SunPower Corporation
Supporting Tobacco Free Businesses
Most smokers begin smoking between the ages of 11 -13 years of age—and the highest percentage of Philadelphia's youth are living in low-and moderate-income neighborhoods. The Philadelphia Department of Health and The Welcoming Center for Pennsylvanians created the Tobacco Free Retail Project to reduce the number of young Philadelphians taking up the habit.
The Tobacco Free Retail Project offers incentives to store owners in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods who make a commitment to stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products. Participants receive technical assistance to develop new business plans or merchandising strategies and to make facade improvements. The project helps businesses generate profits in new ways as they make the transition away from selling tobacco products.
“We seek out strong business owners who are morally committed to reducing smoking,” said Herman Nyamunga, Director, Global Enterprise Hub & Small Business Development, Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians.
“We seek out strong business owners who are morally committed to reducing smoking."
Harnessing the History of Corridors
Alisa McCann, a historic preservationist with a 30-year career with the National Park Service, began with whirlwind history of Philadelphia’s storefronts from the early 1800’s to the mid-20th century. Her point? Businesses update their buildings repeatedly.
Alisa cited the “50-year rule” as one test for what is worth preserving. “That’s about when we gain the perspective to evaluate the significance of a storefront.” Even relatively recent alterations can factor into storefront façade improvements. “1967 is 50 years ago,” she said.
Owners who know the defining details of their building and its history have more information to guide storefront facade improvements. Archival photographs ranging from old picture postcards of neighborhood and photos of street construction projects can be used in sleuthing out the histories of storefronts. When consulting with G-Town Sports on Germantown Avenue as a Collaborative volunteer, Alisa used archival photos to show the owner the upper story windows hidden behind plywood cladding.
Alisa also noted that social history as well as architectural details can be a source of corridor and community pride. The Crab House on Germantown Avenue, for example, is a former bank building that later became a successful catering business owned by African American entrepreneur John Trower. Catering and other food trades offered African Americans the opportunity to own their own businesses in the mid-nineteenth century. African American catering companies played a prominent role in Philadelphia's social life for more than 150 years (source: blackpast.org). Alisa recommended incorporating an interpretive sign into proposed façade improvements to share this history.
"Use the '50-year rule' to test what is worth preserving. That’s about when we gain the perspective to evaluate the significance of a storefront.”
Place-keeping is the long-term and flexible management of green and open spaces to ensure they can be enjoyed by all users now and in the future. South of South Neighborhood Association’s (SOSNA) Grays Ferry Triangle is a great example.
Grays Ferry Triangle evolved from an underutilized traffic island and street into an established neighborhood gathering place with moveable seating, a public fountain, the third most popular bike-share location in the city, and biweekly events featuring food trucks and performances. Like most corridor revitalization efforts, the park did not happen overnight. “We started this in 2006,” said Andrew Dalzell, Chief of Staff, PA State Representative Jared Solomon and former Programs Coordinator for SOSNA. “So it’s important to remember that the process took time.”
Brad Dakake, Project Development Manager, SunPower Corporation and former chair of the Triangles Committee, says places like Grays Ferry Triangle “become organic… the regular destination for Sunday afternoons or family pizza night.” “Businesses see this and want to be part of it. When Igloo [a locally-owned ice cream and frozen dessert shop] was scouting locations, they saw the plaza's potential and signed a lease. Projects like these have ripple effects that you can’t even comprehend when you start.”
Redefining public spaces like Grays Ferry Triangle takes vision, funding, and political will. “Do not try to achieve 100% support… and understand know who the decision-maker is and what will motivate him or her,” advised Andrew and Brad. “Develop a core team who will never give up.”
"Projects like these have ripple effects that you can’t even comprehend when you start.”