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Frankford CDC

Tracy O'Drain, Marie Delaney, Dan Lodise and Rita Lugrine board members

The Frankford CDC held a public board meeting at the Frankford Library on May 25th.  The board laid out their program of work for the next year.  It is clear that the CDC, while still hampered by the debts of the past, is dealing with those problems and has turned the corner and is looking toward the future with optimism.

This board is active and engaged and has a vision.    It was therefore somewhat disappointing that so few from the community attended this public meeting.  This is a brief listing of some of the tasks listed for the next year:

  • The CDC will continue to work on Economic & Community Development within the constraints of the current economic realities.
  • Facade Improvements to the Commercial Corridor have been ongoing with some significant progress visible on the Avenue.
  • They are using the Transit-oriented Development plan as a general blueprint for the future development.
  • They will get back into Residential Rehab when it financially responsible to do so.
  • They are going to establish a plan for Marketing Vacant Properties.
  • Work is being done on the Branding of Frankford.
  • Work with the Public Parking Authority to ease parking issues along the business strip.
  • Organizing Commercial Corridor Block Captains.
  • Producing a Frankford Businesses Brochure.
  • Establishing a Community Website.
  • Special Events will be publicized in the future.

The CDC will continue to sponsor the Northeast Philly Idol contest which is scheduled for October 16th this year.  The venue however is likely to move to the Devon Theater.  Further announcements will follow on the specifics.

Board members

Many of these tanks involve cooperation among the various groups in Frankford.  It is encouraging to see the Frankford Four working together to improve the future of the community.  Who are the Frankford Four?

  1. Frankford Community Development Corporation
  2. Frankford Civic Association
  3. Frankford Business and Professional Association
  4. Frankford Special Services District
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Frankford Special Services District Meeting

The Frankford Special Services District (FSSD) held a public board meeting Monday, February 1st at St. Mark’s church.

The first order of business was election of officers for the coming year.  Chairman will be Jim McCarthy.  Vice chair is Tony Stephens.  Secretary is Liz McCollom-Nazario and Treasurer is Paul Mundy.

Tim Wisniewski, Executive Director of the FSSD discussed the mailing made to the businesses in the area concerning future initiatives of the FSSD.  Wisniewski reported that by far the most significant request was the reintroduction of the Safety Ambassadors on the Avenue.  A discussion followed on how that might be funded.  See the video for part of that discussion.  Possible use of Welfare to Work participants was raised.  Although the cost of their employment would be free to the FSSD, there would still be training and uniform costs.  It was agreed that at least one paid supervisory person would have to be employed no matter what the source of the funding for the remainder of the staff would be.

The board discussed the ongoing issue of trash and what is often “short dumping”.  People from outside the area are dumping household trash into the receptacles on the Avenue.  Even though they are emptied daily, they are often overflowing.  Strategies for prevention and prosecution of illegal dumpers were a hot topic.

There are positions open for three new board members.  Applicants are encouraged to obtain an application via the FSSD web site.

Wisniewski noted that he is about to send final notices to the business owners who are delinquent on their tax payments to the FSSD.  Failure to pay will result in a lien being placed on the owner’s property.

Public board meetings will be held quarterly for the remainder of the year.  The exact dates and times will be published in the Northeast Times and the Frankford Gazette.

Jorge Santana, Chief of Staff for State Rep. Tony Payton mentioned that their office is building a database of Frankford Businesses.  Theresa Hanas of the Frankford CDC said they also collect data from businesses in Frankford.  The FSSD is collects data.  A discussion took place on how the CDC, FSSD and Rep. Payton’s office might work together to share data.  That is a significant turn of events if you have been in Frankford for any length of time.

Mike Thompson on the staff of the Philadelphia City Planning Commission spoke about the various plans still on the boards even though there is no activity on them at this time.  That would include Transit Oriented Development and the Frankford Creek Greenway.

The next meeting is scheduled for May at a date and time to be announced.

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New Philly Media Outlet Metropolis Produces In Depth Expose On Frankford

We got an email from Mike  Newall a month ago looking to do an interview a couple weeks ago for a story about crime and development in Frankford for a new Philly-centered news website called Metropolis.  Inside his four part series he scored some notable misses(like Friends restaurant was opened for under a year, it was Mozaic that opened during a so-called reneasance). Anyways check out all of his piece, it’s nice to see Frankford get some in depth attention.  Although it does make me cringe when the title of part one is “The Frankford Story: In a Free Fall”.  It’s like he asked someone from Mayfair for the title.  If he had come in and done just that story it would have been the regular bullshit that Frankford gets from the area media.  I am so sick of hearing where Frankford has been.  Yes it sucks.  I know how awesome it used to be.  Try telling me why it sucks now and point out some things I can do to start changing it.  So this bastard spends the next three articles doing just that.  It is by far the most comprehensive report on the past, present and future of this neighborhood I have ever seen.  And it’s a testament to this so-called “media revolution” that it should come out of a web based outfit as opposed to print. If paper and ink are too valuable to waste on forgotten places like Frankford, then let the printing presses die.

Part 2 covers the crime and drugs. Crime reporting to me is generally sensational, but tell me everything you can come up with about the drugs, especially about the drug rehab houses which he talks at length in part 3.  I think the more residents know about how they open up and operate, the better prepared they are to fight it.

Part 4 is my favorite and most important to helping understand what’s going in Frankford now.

Here’s a quote from the piece about the political infighting I always considered too nuanced to even try bringing up:

Factions at war

It’s civic and business organizations are beset by nasty political fighting. Frankford has had had three city council representatives in the last four years – Rick Mariano, Dan Savage, and now Maria Quinones-Sanchez. All three have tried to stuff the boards of the local organizations with their own followers and now it’s all a big mess.

The Frankford Civic Association has had some recent success in fighting the zoning of recovery houses. But the civic consists almost entirely of Savage supporters seemingly more focused on winning the former councilman his seat back than taking bold action for Frankford. For her part, councilwoman Quinones-Sanchez has been no great friend to civic association, seemingly putting politics above constituent need.

“The political fighting is destroying the neighborhood,” said Rita Lugrine, a member of the Frankford Community Development Corporation.

But at the end of the day, what am I, a lone resident, able to do to help?

“We’ve been telling the community folks, pick a parcel of land, come up with an idea, shop it around to developers,” said Michael Thompson of the City Planning Commission.

I’m gonna think on this one, I’ll get back to this.

Overall I’m a huge fan on this piece of reporting, if this is how the future of reporting is going to be, it’s going to be an exciting time, not just for Frankford, but for any forgotten section of Philly. Mike Newall is a Philadelphia reporter who writes about neighborhoods. Yeah he does.

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Holiday Thriftway Dubbed Modernist Gem

Holiday Thriftway

I’m all sorts of late on this one, but what can you do.  Inga Safron, architecture critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer, wrote a piece about Northwood native Betsy Manning, staff photographer at Temple, who’s on a journey to document the hidden gems of modernist architecture here in Philadelphia.  And bam tops on the list is Frankford’s own Holiday Thriftway at Pratt and Frankford.  To quote Safron:

The soaring glass vault of the old Penn Fruit store, now a Thriftway, on Frankford Avenue is a perfect example of how midcentury designers’ modernist buildings in the urban environment of Northeast Philadelphia needed to work at two scales, one seen from the road, the other from the sidewalk.

Damn, pretty cool.  The building was originally built by the  Penn Fruit Co. which was founded in Philadelphia in 1927 and grew to 80 stores in the 70’s before losing price wars to local competitors and filing bankruptcy.  We got a cool building out of it though.  And when you think about it, we got a large building that fronts Frankford Ave under the Market Frankford El with it’s parking in the back.  That sounds like transit oriented developement to me and that sounds awesome.

[link]  Changing Skyline: Modernist gems of the Great Northeast

[link]  Architectural Wallflowers

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Frankford’s Green Future

Interesting article yesterday on titled “SEPTA is our key to a green future” by Councilman Bill Greenlee and Beverly Coleman, Executive Director of NeighborhoodsNow.  You can tell somebody is planning for a green windfall from the stimulus.  But if the powers that be are going to throw some money at a problem, let some of it land in Frankford.  It’s about time.

THE OBAMA administration plan for America’s future calls for the U.S. to create jobs, jump-start growth and transform our economy to compete in the 21st century.

This includes becoming the world leader in green technology and adopting progressive environmental policies. As the nation’s sixth-largest city, with the fifth-largest regional public transit system, our impact is huge, our responsibility profound. Given the stimulus money that will flow to the city and the state, we face hard choices about priorities.

Philadelphia is uniquely positioned to respond to this call to increase access to jobs and reduce our carbon footprint by supporting development that takes full advantage of our public transportation system – transit-oriented development (or TOD).

So we’re talking about Transit Oriented Development.  Frankford has some weak areas but our strong points are access to transportation and a wide selection of housing.

Transit-oriented development isn’t new, but now is the time to capitalize on the asset we have in SEPTA by learning from past successes. Philadelphia has stellar examples of commercial TODs in the new Comcast Center and the Cira Center at 30th Street. Demand for walkable urbanism is expected to represent a third of the U.S. housing market by 2030. Chicago, Washington and Oakland, Calif., have aggressively capitalized on their infrastructure with great success.

Now all we need is somebody with some money to start capitalizing on those positives rather than focussing on the negatives.