Axis Philly: Business Owners, Residents and Community Organizers in Germantown Work to Beautify Historic Business Corridor
Longtime residents of Germantown have seen major changes occur in the business corridor of Germantown Avenue and Chelten Avenue. Once the shopping destination of the city, it has now become a place where litter lines the street and metal grates cover the fronts of buildings.
Councilwoman Cindy Bass along with the reestablished Germantown Special Services District and Germantown United have all come together with the common goal to clean up the corridor.
The Germantown Special Services District has developed a plan to start the beautification process of the business corridor. The Philadelphia Planning Commission created a comprehensive beautification plan that includes four proposed improvements.
The improvements include planting trees on West Chelten Avenue as well as on the 5600 and 5700 blocks of Greene Street, alteration of the Coleman Library entrance on Chelten Avenue and a phase one alteration of the Chelten and Greene Plaza.
The Germantown Special Services District plans to fund this initiative through assessments that commercial property owners in the area will have to pay. The Philadelphia Commerce Department has determined that each property owner will pay approximately 12 percent of his or her property taxes in assessments.
Whatever the cost, the residents of Germantown are anxiously waiting for the clean up to get started. Kim Sun is the owner of Sun’s Discount Center on Chelten Avenue. Every day he and his wife open their store and then clean up the trash that has collected on the sidewalk overnight. Son said he knows that if the neighborhood hopes get the streets clean, it has to be an entire neighborhood effort.
“If we are going to clean up, it has to be all together,” Sun said. “Sometimes I take one empty box outside for garbage but it doesn’t help. We clean two or three times a day. I’ve seen in Mount Airy, they have trashcans on the corner but on Chelten Avenue, we do not have a trash can.”
Kenneth Simmons is the assistant manager at the Family Dollar on Chelten Avenue. He had not heard of the beautification plan but said he believes it’s a good start.
“We need to start somewhere, especially if we don’t have anything around where people can at least pitch in and help out. It will be good for Germantown Avenue. I would really like to see all of that happen,” Simmons said.
Business owners all along the corridor know that the litter and the unwelcoming atmosphere have caused a decline in business. Many have taken the initiative themselves to invest in cleaning up and making the streets more welcoming.
Joe Martin owns Acclaim Academy, a child care center on Germantown Avenue. When he first opened three years ago, he painted his outside grates and awnings burgundy. Within the next few weeks, business owners on both sides of Martin’s building also painted.
“Sometimes it just takes someone to start it. A lot of the time, it’s just taking the time or trying to find out who can do it,” Martin said. “If someone is available who can do all the research on something and creates the resources, then other people will take advantage of it.”
The metal grates that have been installed on almost every storefront along Germantown and Chelten Avenues are another eyesore that Germantown United hopes to change.
Andy Trackman is the president of Germanton United. He said that the organization has been talking with the Mural Arts Program to hopefully get the grates painted.
“We wanted to see if there was any interest in helping us out and there was. Mural Arts has a pretty long process that you have to go through which is understandable so we’re still in conversation with them. But it is definitely something that we would like to see happen,” Trackman said.
Some residents have already seen some improvements to the area since business owners have taken some initiative to clean up the streets. Warren Haynes operates the Fastbreak Food Truck located at Greene Street and Chelten Avenue. He’s seen a few people out cleaning up the streets already.
“They’ve been doing a lot better. I’ve seen a couple guys come out with brown bags and the store owners have been coming out cleaning up a little themselves,” Haynes said.
Haynes knows that cleaner streets mean better business. Philadelphia Vision Center employee Johanna Butler has seen someone in the neighborhood out in the business corridor cleaning in the mornings. Butler said that she doesn’t think that it’s bad right now.
“I don’t see it as being as bad as it was at one point in time,” Butler said. “Things were terrible at one point but they have gotten better. It’s nice to see people just trying to do better for the community.”
The Germantown Special Services District hopes that the beginning parts of the beautification plan will start in the spring of 2013. Once the primary areas of the business corridor have been cleaned up planning for similar efforts across the neighborhood will begin.