South Philadelphia: Headhouse District Celebrates 20 Years

The second oldest specialized business improvement district in Philadelphia is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year with plans for continued achievement.

The South Street Headhouse District recently hosted its “State of the Street,” a look at the successes of South Street and the Headhouse District in 2012 plus presenting plans to continue that success in 2013.

Headhouse District Executive Director Michael Harris presented Headhouse plans for 2013.

“We wanted to share with the community-residents and business owners-how excited we are for the Headhouse Dstrict,” Executive Director Michael Harris said. “This year marks our twentieth anniversary but that’s not the only reason why it should be a big year for us.”

Harris became executive director last spring. Since then he has made it a mission to encourage growth within the Headhouse District.

“We want people engaged in their community, that’s the first step really,” Harris saud.

Last year, the South Street Headhouse District launched a full-scale communication and marketing campaign that included a new website, a free mobile application, a “South Street Loves” video series and a “Live Local, Shop Local” buyers reward program.

“We distributed almost 8,000 cards to residents. We have accumulated almost 2,000 Facebook followers and over twice that on Twitter. We have something to offer people so let’s keep that going,” Harris said duirng the “State” event held at the Theatre of the Living Arts, 334 South St.

The eastern section of South Street acts as the center of the Headhouse District that includes the communities of Washington West, Bella Vista, Queen Village and Society Hill.

Headhouse Executive Director Michael Harris (rear left) and Chairman Daniel Christensen(rear right) talk with business owners in the Headhouse District.

More than 400 businesses, including restaurants, retail stores, salons and spas plus other attractions have made this area a well-recognized one; so much so that, the official visitor site for the Greater Philadelphia area, has named South Street “Philadelphia’s famous street,” drawing a range of different people “seamlessly together.”

“The area attracts an eclectic group of people. Its diverse, in age and race and people,” business owner Samori Coles said. Coles is the owner of, a recording studio and production company located at 818 South St.

“But South Street is changing,” said Coles, whose shop has been at the South street location since 2007. “It’s more contemporary than before, more modern.”

Even with the changes, Coles, who said he was fortunate enough to get a space on the famous street, is confident that the legendary South Street ‘vibe’ is still the same.

“I, as a business owner, try to play my role and embrace that feeling that the area gives.”

Special guest at the event, 1st District City Councilman Mark Squilla, promoted a similar idea of togetherness among the Headhouse community. A native of South Philadelphia, Squilla thanked Harris, the business owners, the residents and  Lt. Michael Goodson of the 3rd Police District, for their participation in improving South Street and the Headhouse District.

1st district city councilman, Mark Squilla, congratulated the Headhouse district community on its accomplishments over the past year.
Mark Squilla, 1st district City Councilman, congratulated the Headhouse District community on its accomplishments over the past year.

“It wasn’t long ago that bad things were being said about South Street,” Squilla said during the event. “But it has gained momentum and quickly. In the next few years, I can see it becoming eye-catching and attractive and essential to Philadelphia.”

For 2013, the Headhouse District has added several new events to its calendar, including a daylong Spring Festival on May 4, where South Street will close down between Front and Ninthstreets to allow business owners to expand their shops to the street and residents to explore the food, music and fun of the South Street Headhouse District.


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