Olney’s North 5th Street small business corridor receives federal funding for revitalization efforts

Congressman Brendan Boyle awards $150,000 for business district improvement in Olney (Tom MacDonald WHYY)

Congressman Brendan Boyle awards $150,000 for business district improvement in Olney (Tom MacDonald WHYY)

The North 5th Street small business corridor in the Olney neighborhood of Philadelphia has received $150,000 in federal funding, which officials hope will help local merchants thrive in a challenging climate.

The money is coming from Federal Community Project Funding, which is designed to help prevent crime, improve the streetscape, and increase economic activity while building ties among community residents and merchants. Olney is a diverse neighborhood, and officials claim more languages are spoken in the area than in any other zip code in the state.

U.S. Congressman Brendan Boyle (PA-2), who secured the funding for the area, presented the business district with a check on Tuesday. He said he is hoping it will help bolster what has long been a home to people seeking their own little slice of the American Dream.

“Community project funding is something entirely new this year. It is a federal initiative that allows members of Congress to request and direct funding for projects that benefit the districts that they represent,” Boyle said. “CPF is separate from federal grants and the funding apportioned by those formulas.”

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Boyle grew up in the area, and his mother was a school crossing guard who worked along the business corridor. He said he believes the area is special.

“Fifth Street is really Main Street America, and many different immigrants and different groups have come here over the years and called it home, whether it was German immigrants, Irish immigrants through the modern-day Korean, Latino, Latina, and African Americans,” Boyle said.

Stephanie Michel, executive director of the Northwest 5th Street Revitalization Project, told those in attendance the area is a “hidden gem” in the city and the tangible investments will make the area better for all.

She called the area “overlooked and underserved” and hoped the federal funding will “begin to change that narrative.”

Calvin Lee owns a jewelry store on 5th Street. His family has worked to keep their business alive for 35 years.

“Not only is it a struggle, the pandemic had a massive impact on the neighborhood, but we’re being recognized, we’re being seen and we’re getting the help that we need to try to make the community a better place,” Lee said.

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Boyle said he believes the competitive process to win the federal grant money is a sign that the area has much to offer its community.

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