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North Broad Renaissance begins cleaning efforts

The non-profit aims to create business opportunities and reduce crime stigmas.

North Broad Renaissance, an organization that aims to “revitalize” the North Broad Street Corridor has begun efforts to clean up the street. Cleaning crews can be found along numerous busy streets off North Broad Street, picking up the trash.

The organization has received a positive response to the cleanup efforts, said Shalimar Thomas, the executive director of North Broad Renaissance.

North Broad Renaissance is working on plans to turn a vacant lot on Broad Street near Lehigh Avenue into an urban garden, as well as maintaining various other vacant lots for future development.

The organization finished its first fiscal year this past summer and is focusing on a four-mile stretch of Broad Street between Germantown Avenue and City Hall.

“The first year for the organization was just getting established,” Thomas said. “We were moving towards creating our five-year strategic plan.”

But before they could create that plan, the organization surveyed the community along North Broad Street on what they wanted to see developed. The organization built its long-term plan, intended to be fully enacted by 2020, on this research.

The North Broad Renaissance is having ongoing meetings with police agencies to develop strategies to increase safety along the corridor.

The community, Thomas said, also wants improvements to maintenance and landscaping, through green space.

“It makes [the street] more inviting,” she said. “They want North Broad to be walkable.”

North Broad Renaissance maintains the $12 million light poles running down the center of along North Broad Street.

“The North Poles,” were put in as a part of the Avenue of the Arts’ initiative to redevelop Broad Street. Thomas said the Avenue of the Arts’ lack of attention to North Broad Street spurred the creation of North Broad Renaissance to redevelop the area and increase economic opportunities.

The light poles were built without any community engagement and received an overwhelmingly negative response, Thomas said.

“We didn’t start the North Poles, but we inherited them,” Thomas said. “It’s something we have to deal with. I am confident we can make it work, but we have to figure out a way to use this for the community.”

The community also requested a strong focus on communication, Thomas said.

“[The community] wanted us to make sure we were communicating with them,” she said. “And they could communicate with us.”

“We hit all angles,” Thomas added. “We do [outreach] from a grassroots standpoint. We have a street team out, keeping the community engaged. We also work with the newspapers, TV and radio and our online outreach is mainly done by constant contact. Then we have social media of course, too.”

The organization recently offered an internship opportunity for Temple students to help out with community and social media outreach.

One of the community’s biggest concerns, Thomas said, is cleanliness and safety.

“I think it’s about perception,” Thomas said. “What we’re finding out is, through meeting with police agencies, [North Broad] is actually one of their quieter corridors, but the perception is that it’s not safe.”

Thomas added she believes that a lack of development and cleanliness along the street contribute to that perception.

The community also asked the organization to focus on economic development. The community wants North Broad Renaissance to be a “job creator” for the community.

The organization is trying to attract businesses willing to hire within the North Philadelphia community.

“When we did our research, we found that we want to try and attract professional services and small businesses to North Broad,” Thomas said. “We want employers that are going to hire.”

Thomas said she believes it’s important for her to recognize that North Broad Renaissance “is not [her] plan, it’s the community’s plan.”

“You have to stay true to what the community wants, that’s what it’s all about,” she said.

Noah Tanen can be reached at noah.tanen@temple.edu.

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