Local residents, business owners and community organizers gathered in People’s Baptist Church, located 5039 Baltimore Ave., to discuss community issues and revitalization projects in the area.
The “Next Steps in the Baltimore Avenue Conversation” meeting was held in response to community initiatives introduced last year to improve the retail, residential and commercial districts along Baltimore Avenue from 49th to 52nd streets.
During the meeting on Tuesday, Cedar Park Neighbors Association coordinators presented a report of the finalized revitalization plans for the neighborhood, which included new facilities and green initiatives.
The Baltimore Avenue Community Corridor report compiled by the Community Design Collaborative provided attendees with the results of the comments, concerns and ideas expressed by residents through community workshops.
In addition, the report included the proposed master plan drawings, design recommendations, renderings and an opinion of the probable costs of the proposed revitalization project, which is expected to revive Baltimore Avenue.
During the session, CPN coordinators also introduced a compiled list of desires area residents previously voiced for the neighborhood. Amongst the desires of residents, which included affordable housing, assisted living facilities, housing for the disabled, community education and recreation centers and community gardens, residents also expressed their desire for the neighborhood to have more fresh food grocery stores.
In regards to the suggestions of area residents, Leah Pillsbury, fundraising and expansion coordinator for Mariposa Co-op spoke of the current efforts the food co-op is making to make fresh food more accessible to residents.
Currently, Mariposa Co-op which is the only fresh food grocery store in the Cedar Park neighborhood is preparing to relocate to a larger facility on Baltimore Avenue. “We are committed to selling fresh, healthy, affordable and local food,” Pillsbury explained.
Pillsbury said that the expansion will allow members as well as non members to purchase groceries from the store, and also allows the co-op to offer a larger food selection to shoppers. “In the new co-op anyone will be able to shop,” Pillsbury explained. “No matter if they are just getting off the trolley or visiting from Baltimore.”
Another area of concern for local residents and business owners was the deteriorated property on the southwest corner of Baltimore Avenue. Currently, along the southwest corner of 51st Street and Baltimore Avenue residents are bombarded by vacant lots and dilapidated properties.
Residents were concerned with the safety and mobility around these vacant areas and emphasized the need to transform the vacant lots into neighborhood necessities and make the area attractive.
Stephanie Chiorean, a representative of the Philadelphia Water Department talked about green corridor initiatives for the Cedar Park community.“We are looking at 51st Street, to figure out a way to help bring this neighborhood benefits through a green system,” Chiorean explained.
With this “green system” Chiorean explained that the focus is to develop green stormwater tree trenches, planters and bump-outs or pervious pavement. Through the community’s green corridor initiative, Chiorean also introduced the idea of tree and plant developments around the neighborhood. “We want to improve the neighborhood aesthetically,” Chiorean said.
Whereas many residents welcomed the idea of more trees and plants throughout the neighborhood, other residents acknowledged that the addition although beautifying could also cause a disturbance.While some residents inquired about tree planting on their blocks, other residents asked about removing old trees on and around their properties. Several residents believed that many of the older trees had become hazardous, cracking residential windows, starting small fires and housing raccoons and possums.
Another issue that sparked much debate was the idea of business owners establishing parking lots in vacant lands for their businesses.
Frankie Francis, owner of Francis Funeral Home located at 5201 Whitby Ave., expressed the need for parking lots in order to help make establishments like the Francis Funeral home more accessible and accommodating to area residents.
“It would benefit everyone in the community,” Francis explained of the parking lot idea he said he proposed to the city.
Francis explained that the anticipated lot would also be available for churches, other small businesses and residents.
In opposition, some residents and business owners said that the development of a large parking lot would deter business from small enterprises along Baltimore Avenue, and said that the pedestrian corridors are needed to keep local businesses active.
For more information on the Baltimore Avenue Revitalization project visit the Cedar Park Neighbors website at www.cedarparkneighbors.org.