Manayunk Development Corporation holds third annual ‘State of Manayunk’ address

Jane Lipton tried to cover all of Manayunk in only 20 minutes.

Preceding President Obama’s State of the Union speech by two hours, Lipton – Executive Director of the Manayunk Development Corporation – gave a “State of Manayunk” address on Tuesday evening, highlighting the many projects on MDC’s extensive palette.

Held in the lower level of Bourbon Blue on Rector Street in Manayunk, this was the event’s third year.

Projects, events and budget items 

In a presentation that lasted just shy of 30 minutes – sorry, Jane – Lipton began with a synopsis of the capital projects the MDC started in 2011.

Focusing on the big-budget items, Lipton spoke about the capital improvements on Venice Island, the rehabilitation and repurposing of the Manayunk Bridge, and the introduction of running river water into the Sluice Canal that separates Venice Island from mainland Manayunk.

With a combined price-tag of over $60 million, “this is big, big stuff,” she observed.

With respect to events, Lipton pointed to the 18 promotional web banners used on Manayunk.com in the past year to denote their numerous attractions.

In particular, she highlighted the long-running Manayunk Arts Festival and more-recent “Manayunk on Ice,” a three-day festival that began last year and drew some 22,000 visitors, according to Lipton.

“We have more events and more promotions than districts that have budgets 3 to 4 times ours,” she said.

And while the MDC’s annual budget is not insignificant – $1.2 million, as provided by Lipton’s PowerPoint presentation – she emphasized that her organization is scrupulous in its accounting, and that its mission is one of service to the community.

“We watch every penny,” she assured those present, “and spend the money where you want it.”

Connecting MDC with its constituency 

Lipton, who accepted her position in October of 2009, explained the background of the address.

At the time of her arrival, she recalled, “there was a lot of turnover in the staff (of MDC) – the organization was rudderless.”

Sensing a disconnect at that time between the MDC and its constituency, she envisioned a forum where community residents could come and speak openly about their concerns and their ideas for the future of Manayunk, with an emphasis on organizational transparency.

“I wanted to be able to talk about any question, about any subject matter – with full disclosure,” she said.

In the first year, she fielded quite a few complaints, “mostly in the form of questions,” she noted.

This year, with her staff poised, prepared, and at the ready in seats positioned directly behind her, Lipton received virtually no questions from those in attendance.

However, she isn’t mistaking the absence of inquiry for disinterest.

“It tells me I’m doing my job,” she remarked.

The three C’s

Prior to the State of Manayunk address, Bill O’Brien from the Manayunk Special Services District gave a presentation about the organization’s recent efforts – many of which parallel those presented by Lipton – and led a question and answer session.

The MSSD is a municipal authority sponsored by the MDC that promotes and executes capital improvements, fosters communication efforts within the business community, and oversees street-cleaning services – “the three C’s,” as Lipton calls it.

The MSSD serves Manayunk’s Business Improvement District, defined as the area bounded by the Schuylkill River and SEPTA’s Norristown Line, and from Leverington Avenue to the Wissahickon Creek.

Trish Gorman, owner of DIGS on Main St., asked O’Brien about security concerns in Manayunk.

Since opening her store, Gorman has installed several street-side planters to enhance her store’s aesthetic appeal, only to have them vandalized as a result of late-night carousing at Main Street bars.

“They’ve all been smashed,” she said in regard to the planters, and added that her shop’s windows have often suffered similar fates.

In response to this, Lipton said that she is negotiating increased police presence on Main St.

Countering this, O’Brien offered a strategic perspective.

Citing self-interest, he noted that problematic businesses often need support from the extended business community in order to support their future plans for expansion, thus providing leverage.

“Hopefully,” he said of the less-civic minded proprietors, “(they) will become better neighbors if they want to see their businesses grow.”

Stay tuned to Newsworks for a profile of Jane Lipton and the MDC early next week.

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