The orange traffic cones are out, portions of the sidewalk are blocked off and construction is finally underway for the $2.2 million streetscape revitalization project along Ridge Avenue in Roxborough.
Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr. and Congressman Chaka Fattah joined members of the Roxborough Development Corporation on Wednesday morning for the official groundbreaking ceremony.
In the misting rain, Bernard Guet, executive director of the RDC, explained the purpose of the mulit-million dollar plan.
“Basically, we are going to have a streetscape with trees and shrubbery and a new sidewalk.” Guet said. “This will invite more people to walk, spend money and live along Ridge Avenue.”
Standing before construction vehicles in the Acme parking lot, Guet, Jones, Fattah and RDC President Dale Kline, took turns explaining the value of the new sidewalk for businesses and residents of the neighborhood.
The project will incorporate a number of aesthetically pleasing transformations between Roxborough and Monastery avenues including new sidewalks, 80 new trees, fresh planter boxes and the installation of handicap ramps. Two large signs will also welcome visitors to the neighborhood.
Kenneth Bigos, RDC operations manager, says the new signage will help serve as a “Gateway to Roxborough” and adds that they are designed to give people “a sense of arrival, a sense of place.”
A “pocket park” is also being planned for 6170 Ridge Ave, on the corner of Leverington Avenue. Bernard Guet believes construction will begin there as early as this fall, or early spring. Seravalli, Inc. is in charge of construction.
Promoting walkability and creating jobs
Councilman Jones says the new greenery will have a calming effect and promote “walkability” along Ridge Avenue, which the RDC refers to as the neighborhood’s “Central Business District.”
“Even in a recession,” Jones said “we’re gonna be creating jobs and creating beauty in one of the best small towns in Philadelphia.”
Fattah mentioned President Obama’s jobs plan saying, “there’s important work to be done in Washington, but this is important work that has to happen in communities.”
Both elected officials praised the RDC for facilitating the design of the project through years of community meetings.
“It could not have happened without the creative input of the community development corporation,” said Fattah.
But the project also couldn’t have gotten off the ground without the financial support of the $800,000 Federal “Home Town Streets” grant from Congressman Fattah’s office, $977,500 from the State SAFETEA-LU funding and $500,000 from the “Targeted Neighborhood support grant program” through Councilman Jones’ office.
Revitalizing a corridor
Jones drew attention to the history of Ridge Avenue, reminding the crowd that, “This once was a road that carried historic individuals such as George Washington’s troops during the revolutionary war, but today it carries commerce back and forth.”
The goal of the project is to promote a “pedestrian-oriented commercial corridor,” or Main Street, to eliminate the feeling of a strip-mall community.
The hope is that greening the street and opening the sidewalks to more foot traffic will attract more business.
The project is expected to be complete by the summer of 2012.