When Germantown United Community Development Corp. launched two years ago, the organization’s officers and board members knew it would take time for residents to not only embrace, but also have faith in its mission to improve the neighborhood’s trash-strewn commercial corridors.
Germantown has long been a place with a bevy of active community groups that haven’t always seen eye-to-eye.
The neighborhood was also home to Germantown Settlement, a now defunct social-services agency that mismanaged its vast real-estate holdings with millions of taxpayer dollars on the line. More than a few community leaders maintain that Germantown suffered greatly as a result. Especially when it came to development.
Two years in, positivity
Just a few days before the group’s first-ever fundraiser, though, Germantown United’s leadership said it feels that the organization has shown that it means business and wants, more than anything, to do things the right way by keeping everyone informed.
“We’re becoming a known quantity and an organization that’s transparent,” said Julie Stapleton-Carroll, the group’s vice president.
Community cleanups, events like “Stars Under the Trees,” an outdoor movie series in Vernon Park and a pair of forums on topics such as sustainability, have helped build that ever-important trust, she said.
Now, it’s time to raise some money.
The organization recently hired its first-ever employee — part-time executive director Andy Trackman. It now wants the CDC to begin blossoming into a “fully-functioning” operation akin to New Kensington CDC, one of the organization’s models.
“We can be a force to stabilize the commercial area,” said board member Yvonne Haskins.
The organization is already in the process of the laying the groundwork for that goal. It has applied to become a corridor manager through the city’s Department of Commerce.
Stapleton-Carroll said the grant, if awarded, would give Germantown United $80,000 to help support, sustain and grow the neighborhood’s business community.
Thursday’s fundraiser — dubbed “For the Love of Germantown” — will be held at the Oaks Cloister at 5829 Wissahickon Ave. from 6 to 8 p.m.
An honored guest
Former Gov. Ed Rendell, who lives in neighboring East Falls, will be the evening’s featured speaker.
Rendell said he plans on discussing what he thinks are the key ingredients to turning around a commercial corridor: Enhancing cleanliness, the feeling of security, marketing and finding the “right kind” of tenants.
“You just can’t have all fast food,” said Rendell, who was a major force behind improving Center City in the mid-90s as mayor. “You’ve got to have a mix, a blend.”
He added that he’d “love to see Chelten [Avenue] and Germantown [Avenue] come back” and that he’ll “be there to help them [Germantown United] if they ask me.”
The evening will also feature a throwback menu of sorts.
In the late 19th century, John Trower opened a restaurant and catering company at building on Chelten Avenue. The business help make Trower, a friend of W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington, one of the wealthiest African Americans in the country.
Thursday’s menu will feature items that Trower’s business served up, including oysters and lobster salad.