Organization tasked with cleaning up Mt. Airy’s commercial district to get five-year extension

With its charter renewal nearly in the bag, Mt. Airy’s Business Improvement District (BID) reflected on the numerous accomplishments it has achieved in its first five years. BID held its annual meeting Thursday evening at the New Covenant Campus.

BID Chair, Ken Weinstein noted that the association has experienced a “successful, smooth year”, most notably with its reauthorization process. City Council’s Rules Committee voted to approve the five year renewal of BID’s charter on September 13.

Five years ago, Germantown Avenue was littered with trash and not inviting to business. “Now we’re the envy of Northwest Philly,” Weinstein enthused. BID members want to ensure that progress continues.

Commercial property owners have 45 days remaining in which to voice objection to BID’s charter renewal. BID will dissolve only if 51 percent or more come out in opposition. Otherwise, approval by the majority of property owners would result in a first reading of the legislation before City Council in November. After a second reading and final passage before City Council, Mayor Nutter will sign the legislation.

What BID has accomplished

BID’s accomplishments include community clean-up efforts, graffiti removal, colorful rain barrels, 90 hanging flower baskets, 80 banners installed on Septa trolley poles, 50 Big Belly solar trash receptacles and more than 140 security lights installed on commercial properties along Germantown Avenue.

BID’s primary objective is cleaning and beautification projects along the neighborhood’s commercial corridor. Street cleaning services are vital to the association’s mission to make Germantown Avenue clean and safe. Board member, Peter Common offered strong praise for the work of Avenue Ambassador street cleaning crew, Cookie Bundy and Derrick Roberson.

Hollie Malamud-Price, BID’s Executive Director, noted that strong partnerships with the community and its organizations, particularly Mt. Airy USA (MAUSA) have been integral to BID’s success.

Board member, Elise Rivers spoke to the importance of such partnerships in the revitalization of Mt. Airy’s commercial district. Rivers recently won first prize for her entry of the 6700 and 6800 blocks in the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) City Gardens Contest, under the Garden Block category. She said that the backstory of the beautification project was that it involved “a lot of layers” – some being her own efforts and some being the initiatives of BID and MAUSA, such as MAUSA’s 2010 facade grants and BID’s decorative planters, hanging flower baskets and funding for plantings to improve a once neglected lot situate at the corner of Carpenter Lane and Germantown avenues.

Rivers also noted the partnership between BID, local furniture maker, Charles Todd, the Lutheran Seminary and Ed Hillis for the design, funding and implementation of wooden park benches in the William Allen Plaza, making the space more attractive and promoting greater use by the community.

BID’s budget is $125,000, which comes from an 18 percent levy of the real estate tax assessed to property owners along Germantown Avenue by the City’s Board of Revision Taxes (BRT). The leveraging of grant monies has been a key factor in BID’s success story. In the past five years, BID has been awarded $140,000 in grants for Big Belly trash receptacles, $60,000 (in partnership with MAUSA) for street cleaning services and $6,500 from the Northwest fund for security lighting.

Plans for the future

Malamud-Price said BID will continue its mission to care for, clean and beautify Germantown Avenue. The association will also be working with MAUSA to install crosswalks between Mt. Pleasant and Mt. Airy avenues. A holiday trolley pole decorating contest will also be in the works “to add some color and fun to the Avenue,” Malamud-Price remarked. Rivers noted that pocket parks and the proposed Lovett Library Park renovation project are part of the “garden mentality” that BID, in conjunction with MAUSA, wants to bring to the avenue in the near future.

BID has applied for a $25,657 Keystone Communities Implementation grant for next year. If awarded the money will be used to hire another full-time staff member to care for the association’s streetscape greenery.

Board Member elections

Attendees voted unanimously to elect the following five board members to two year terms: Deborah Gary, Yvonne Haskins, Clifton Jones, Traci Nickens, Michael Schweisheimer and Ken Weinstein.

Stepping down as board member, after serving for five years is Bob Elfant. Elfant was acknowledge for being instrumental in BID’s inception eight years ago when the association began as a volunteer organization. “No one in the last 30 years has done more for Mt. Airy, ” Weinstein stated.

The board also elected the following executive officers:

Chair – Ken WeinsteinVice-chair – Peter CommonsSecretary – Elise Rivers

The position of Treasurer remains to be filled.

Per changes in BID’s bylaws, the association also elected the following non-voting members to its board: Dr. Philip Krey, Jay Goldstein, Pam Rich-Wheeler and Jeff Travis.

It was noted that Paul Egonopoulos would be stepping down as a non-voting board member.

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