A recap of NW Philly neighborhood goals for 2012

Last month, Newsworks profiled three Northwest Philadelphia development corporations in order to develop a civic agenda for the coming year and to bring the leaders of each organization into the public eye.

Here’s a recap of each development corporation’s goals for 2012.

Roxborough

Bernard Guet is Executive director of the Roxborough Development Corporation.

The RDC is currently in a transition phase – its former location having been sold to the Foodery, the RDC is temporarily occupying a former storefront at 6111 Ridge Avenue in Roxborough. 

Thus, a major goal for the RDC in 2012 is securing a new permanent home.

It won’t be as easy as it seems, said Guet, as Roxborough has historically avoided high rates of vacancy, recession notwithstanding.

Less concrete plans include the development of a BYOB in Roxborough.

Guet, himself a former hotelier and restaurateur, envisions soliciting proposals from students of local culinary schools and giving them carte blanche.

“We would give them the space for a year for free – with conditions,” he said, adding that his experience in the field could help secure a successful outcome for the project.

With an eye toward education, Guet spoke about the work done so far at improving education in Roxborough, and pointed out the interconnectedness of good schools with good neighborhoods.

“A school is the third leg (of a stool) – along with the residents and the businesses,” he mused, noting that if a public school fails, residents will be forced to look into alternate means of schooling – or leave.

To remedy this, the RDC is participating in discussions to ensure a quality education for residents.

In addition, talks are underway to bring a charter school to Roxborough.

“It’s coming close,” said Guet in reference to the charter school proposal. “It’s not here yet – but it could happen.”

East Falls 

Gina Snyder is Executive Director of the East Falls Development Corporation.

Snyder told Newsworks that the development and implementation of plans for the Rivage site in East Falls will consume much of EFDC’s time and energy in 2012, despite its public unveiling late last year.

As reported by Newsworks in December, Northern Liberties-based Onion Flats plans to combine both residential and retail space in an environmentally-friendly complex in a plot situated between Ridge Ave. and Kelly Drive.

Although construction is not scheduled to begin until 2013, “all the work must take place this year in order for it happen,” said Snyder.

Explaining the necessary legwork to be completed, she noted that both zoning variances and tenants must be obtained. Furthermore, ongoing meetings with the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority will be necessary.

‘”It going to be a catalyst,” said Snyder of the Rivage plan, “it will serve as an anchor to the business district.”

Further undertakings for 2012 include the addition of cut-in parking to the Inn Yard Park between Ridge Ave. and Kelly Drive, and the continuance of the ever-popular Bike Race Block Party.

Lastly, a façade project will begin in 2012 at EFDC’s headquarters, which will serve as a model for proposed enhancements to signage along the Ridge Avenue corridor.

Manayunk

Jane Lipton is Executive Director of the Manayunk Development Corporation on Main Street.

The MDC is currently working on a complete audit of all available parking resources in its district in order to combat the prevailing perception that, as Lipton phrased it, “you can’t park in Manayunk.”

While noting that consumer taste is to park within a line of sight of their destination, Lipton asserted that you can park in Manayunk – “just not for free.”

Currently, she observed, there are over 1,000 parking spots in local lots – 300 of which are centrally located – the occupancy rate of which rarely exceeds 50-percent.

In light of this, Lipton sees her mission as one of addressing – and changing – public attitudes about Manayunk parking.

“If it’s the perception,” she said, “then I have to own that.”

Another perception that the MDC plans to correct in 2012 is that culinary offerings on Main Street and surrounding areas cater strictly to the bar-going crowd.

To change this, Lipton is hoping to establish a food-related event later in the year that highlights both the quality and the diversity of Manayunk’s restaurants and restaurateurs, and re-establishes Manayunk’s primacy as a gourmet destination.

Lipton pointed to 2011’s Eco Arts Festival’s EATS – Eat Along The Street – street food fest as the model for the proposed event.

To go forward with the food-themed fete, Lipton is soliciting the participation of local restaurateurs to sit on committees to help decide, in her words, “what it should look like, what it should feel like, and what it should taste like.”

Larger-scale planning will commence later in the year.

Collaboration between neighborhoods 

While each development corporation is accountable to their respective district, there exists both collegiality and a dedication to cooperation among Guet, Snyder, and Lipton.

They meet regularly to discuss and coordinate planning.

“We are close districts,” Lipton observed, adding, “it sure is important to sit down and say, ‘What happens in Manayunk affects East Falls and Roxborough.'”

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