Brewerytown and Fairmount Community Development Corporations have been working together to restore the greater business bureau in Brewerytown. The shared goal is to institute the phrase, “two neighborhoods and one community.”
The Brewerytown Neighborhood Plan was developed to help restore the neighborhood and get people living there back on their feet. The two groups recognized only so much can be done in restoring the neighborhood, which is why the plan was built around the community members.
Kevin Moran, communication director of the Fairmount CDC, said he felt Girard Avenue can be a place for not only Brewerytown residents, but for the residents of Fairmount as well.
“The whole idea of ‘two neighborhoods one community’ is not to make these two historical neighborhoods into one homogenous place. Rather it is to have both neighborhoods working together to better the whole community,” Moran said.
While the Brewerytown plan has been in existence since 2009, it was only launched about a month ago, Moran said.
Some of the things already accomplished are daily street cleanings, the painting of trash cans and the revitalization of Veterans Memorial Park. The program also helped to support the businesses along the avenue, and improved the aesthetics of the avenue.
Local resident Joseph Bransky said he noticed a difference in scenery over the last month.
“The neighborhood is kind of down and now they have the flowers out and its bringing out the beauty,” said Bransky. “Within the last year or so, there has been more life brought to this community.”
Some key goals which were cited in the official Brewerytown Neighborhood Plan were the desire to empower the residents and involve them in some of the projects that will take place.
The plan also called for the creation of clear expectations for the development of housing in the area. The most important aspect of the plan itself was to raise money for the community, and improve the commercial and retail aspects of the neighborhoods.
The main difference between the CDCs’ plan for action and prior attempts at revitalization, is now the two groups strived to maintain a realistic perspective. The Greater Brewerytown and Fairmount CDCs understood that making drastic changes in a short time could present some serious challenges.
The blueprints for the two communities focused on improving the storefronts of private businesses, as well as the exterior of the avenue as a whole. The members of the Fairmount CDC said they believed improving the visual aspect of Girard Avenue will attract more consumers to the local stores, and in turn improve the economic and social factors of the neighborhood.
The plan was developed with the intention of restoring Brewerytown during the next five years. The first item it accomplished was a survey, which helped identify what the community thought about the current state of Brewerytown.
One major issue highlighted from the survey, was that one in five kids are not in school or are unemployed. The CDCs acknowledged the correlation between the lack of education and the lack of employment. Another major issue revealed by the survey data, was that Brewerytown is currently 30 percent below the poverty line. Furthermore, nearly 40 percent of Brewerytown residents have not received a high school diploma.
Scott Ginswell, a Brewerytown resident, agreed that the youth of this neighborhood must be a main focus.
“I would love to see more youth and community wide development,” Ginswell said. “We don’t need companies from anywhere USA to come here. We need to build from the bottom up.”
The main reason for the survey was to determine the central issues Brewerytown has been facing. The objective was to help educate the community on the matter. These tasks were part of the first phase of the Brewerytown Neighborhood Plan, which is still currently underway.
The project is mostly funded by the Wells Fargo Regional Foundation.
“We are eligible for foundation money since we are a nonprofit. The Wells Fargo Regional Foundation has made the largest contribution which was seed money to start this project,” said Moran.
This seed money has allowed the Fairmount CDC to hire employees who work to find further funding and donations to support the project.
The Brewerytown and Fairmount CDCs have been working toward progress using what the community already has to offer. The majority of the land in the community is used for housing, but
nearly twenty percent of the land is unused, according to the survey. There are many vacant lots and unused buildings that can be turned into more housing or shopping centers. The CDCs aim to utilize all of their potential outlets for improving the commercial corridor of Girard Avenue and the rest of the community.