Germantown business owners: Clean it (the Avenue), and they (quality businesses) will come

Business owners along Germantown Avenue in Germantown desperately want to kick the commercial corridor’s trash problem.

During a Tuesday night meeting with elected officials, police and community developers, a number of attendees cited garbage as one of the neighborhood’s ongoing issues that weaken the shopping district and its potential to improve.

“This is very unprofessional,” said Debbie Carter, who runs a second-hand clothing boutique and barbershop.

Earlene Lightfoot, who owns Philadelphia Hair Company, echoed Carter’s sentiments. She said the corridor’s appearance hurts the neighborhood’s ability to attract quality businesses.

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“We can’t invite businesses into our area if our area looks the way it looks. Nobody is going to come here,” said Lightfoot. “We truly need help.”

Nobody picks up after litterbugs

Germantown Avenue currently lacks a formal street-cleaning program.

Until recently, the Germantown Special Services District — a business improvement district initiative akin to the Center City District — served that role. But funding for the GSSD, which employed just one street cleaner, was cut.

City Councilwoman Cindy Bass, whose Eighth District includes Germantown, is looking to secure a city Commerce Department grant to revive the GSSD.

Bob Bembrey, who oversees zoning and business development for Bass, said paperwork to do so has been submitted. A response should arrive within the next three to six months, he said, but it’s unclear how soon the GSSD would be operational after a potential grant.

Crime, drugs also problems

Attendees also said mending Germantown Avenue means addressing drug-related activities.

Kia Felton, who runs Acclaim Academy, an early childhood learning center, said she often finds folks smoking marijuana outside of her business and that the smell wafts inside.

Others complained about patients from a nearby methadone clinic often roam the Avenue afterward, allegedly stealing and doing drugs along the way.

“This is a place that shouldn’t even be allowed to be,” said the owner of a computer store. “They sell drugs and do everything under the sun. I just don’t think it was a good fit for the community.”

After-school concerns

Business owners also raised concerns about fights breaking out afterschool on the Avenue.

“We are out there. We are trying. We will continue to try and maintain the peace in that area,” 14th Police District Capt. Joseph Dales said, also acknowledging that the methadone clinic is an issue and said one of his officers has made it a top priority.

Despite these issues, several of the evening’s panelists relayed their confidence that Germantown Avenue can once again be one of the city’s finest commercial districts.

“The vision for me is empowering our community and taking back the economic engine,” said state Rep. John Myers, whose office organized Tuesday’s meeting held at Treasures Banquet Hall. “We’re already on our way.”

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