Fairmount: CDC Hopes to Revitalize Neighborhood

One of the ten trashcans that the Fairmount CDC has placed on West Girard Ave. in Philadelphia.

Tucked away in the hustle of Girard Avenue is a brightly displayed building, decorated with colorful flowers and small window designs. This office is on a mission to clean up the neighborhood and return the true beauty to the surrounding area.

Fairmount Community Development Corporation serves the Brewerytown and Fairmount neighborhoods by hosting gatherings, fixing up destroyed buildings and parks, and cleaning up the streets.

Rebecca Johnson, executive director of the Fairmount CDC, in her office on West Girard Ave. in Philadelphia.
Rebecca Johnson, executive director of the Fairmount CDC, in her office on West Girard Ave. in Philadelphia.

According to its website, the CDC was founded in 1999, when a group of “civic minded people” wanted to improve their community. A nonprofit seemed like a great concept to get people to come together.

Rebecca Johnson, who serves as executive director for the CDC, has been a part of the nonprofit organization since 2005. The CDC’s most recent efforts include local bar crawls, cleaning up neighborhoods, and rebuilding the community – both emotionally and physically.

Johnson’s current priority is trying to dispose of the trash hovering around Girard Avenue.

“The CDC has a lot of projects coming up, but picking up the trash is a priority,” Johnson said. “We are always busy.”

The tune-up of Brewerytown has been a struggle. Litter remains a problem, and many buildings are covered with graffiti or abandoned.

One of the ten trashcans that the Fairmount CDC has placed on West Girard Ave. in Philadelphia.
One of the ten trashcans that the Fairmount CDC has placed on West Girard Ave. in Philadelphia.

“Our latest idea was putting in more trash cans,” Johnson said. “Unfortunately, it backfired and actually made the area messier.”

Besides the heavy cost and commitment every new trash can brings, the cans were racking up more trash due to overfilling. Plus people residing around the trash can were complaining of the constant smell. Ultimately, many trash cans were removed.

The initiative stemmed from the CDC’s effort to implement the 2006 Brewerytown Neighborhood Plan, which outlines a four-pronged approach to revitalize the area.

The first step entails creating awareness and getting volunteers. The CDC hopes people from all backgrounds work on the development together, creating relationships between unlikely crowds.

The second step aims to improve the future for the next generation. The CDC wants people to network and hopefully receive some donations that will help purchase better technology for schools and create fun and educational youth activities.

The third step involves physical changes: maintaining clean streets, fixing up abandoned houses and promoting new living areas. In an effort to boost the Brewerytown neighborhood economically, the CDC is appealing to wealthier families. With a completely redone area, the neighborhood will create incentives for outsiders to move in.

Street art on West Girard Ave. in Philadelphia.
Street art on West Girard Ave. in Philadelphia.

The final step is to beautify Brewerytown completely. After disposing of waste, the CDC is helping the neighborhood become green. They want to create a community garden and revitalize what has already grown.  While this process is strenuous, Brewerytown reported huge success only five years in. The area has seen in increase in population and local business growth.

“We are in a long process of recreating Brewerytown,” Johnson said.  “But it is coming along and people are reporting positive change.”

As the Neighborhood Plan goes into effect, the CDC will continue its expansion through communal events. On the last Sunday in February, the CDC hosted the inaugural Pig Crawl. Thirteen bars participated, allowing people to try different types of pig meat as well as partake in beer specials.

Resident Sarah Alexander has participated and worked in many CDC-hosted events in the last five years.

“The local bar crawls are a great way to meet people and boost the neighborhood economy,” Alexander said. “Bastille Day, Arts Bar Crawl and the Pig Crawl brings a sense of community understanding.”

Following up a successful test run, the CDC is trying out another local community event.

“In the next week, we are trying out dollar days,” Johnson said. “The event will allow local businesses to sell items at $1, $3 or $5.”

Fairmount CDC’s most popular event is less than three weeks away. The Arts Bar Crawl, scheduled for April 6 from 2 to 4 p.m., is celebrating 10 years showcasing local talent. Many Fairmount bars decorate their bars with paintings, pottery, sculptures, and other works of art. For a small fee, any bar can participate and some can even request a certain artist’s work.

“The Arts Crawl is the best because it’s incredible to see the talent of others locally,” said Alexander. “Plus many bars offer great prices for beer.”

Sandi Pierantozzi and Neil Patterson were part of the original founders of the crawl and worked with the CDC to create the program.

“It’s great that the community can come together and appreciate fine art,” Pierantozzi said. “The CDC continually does a great job helping those participating.”

With all of these future changes and events happening in Fairmount and Brewerytown, Johnson as well as the rest of the CDC is very excited.

“We all see the changes in community and it’s awesome to see it happening now,” she said.

– Text, images and video by Amber Curtis and Courtney Marabella