Although the spring semester is still in its early stages, Temple students are already seeing more A’s. These letters, however, are not the result of hard academic work but rather that of Avenue of the Arts Inc.
The double-A scripted light company’s logos are now posted on many street light posts along North Broad Street.
Karen Lewis, executive director of Avenue of the Arts Inc., said the lighted decorations serve more than a symbolic purpose. Her company is in charge of the Avenue of the Arts North Project that, according to Lewis, is “part of an overall streetscape program” to extend the Avenue of the Arts to North Broad Street.
The plan stretches from Washington Avenue in South Philadelphia, past City Hall, to Glenwood Avenue in North Philadelphia. Lewis said that South Broad Street’s familiar scripted A’s, antique-looking light poles and refurbished sidewalks will soon be added to parts of North Broad.
Although the Avenue of the Arts North Project is officially separate from developments on South Broad, Lewis explained that the two projects maintain a close relationship.
“I hate to sort of separate them,” she said. “Some people don’t realize that North Broad Street and South Broad are one in the same.”
The project, which began in fall 2005, became difficult to realize due to North Broad Street’s small size. “South Broad is not as long as North Broad, so funding became an issue,” Lewis said.
To address the funding problem, Avenue of the Arts Inc. decided to focus the first improvements on a few key intersections along North Broad Street. Among these are Ridge Avenue and Fairmount Avenue, the intersections of Broad Street and Girard, Cecil B. Moore, and Susquehanna avenues.
These renovations feature new traffic signals in all directions, new light posts, sidewalk repair and the hallmark double-A logo of the Avenue of the Arts. Lewis referred to these additions as “extending the brand.”
Some Temple students said Lewis’ efforts may not be the best way to improve North Broad, particularly the part that bisects Temple’s campus.
Ian Parks, a junior who lives close to Broad Street, said he believes more needs to be done to perpetuate a real change.
“It’s not the lack of light posts and traffic lights,” Parks said. “It’s the rundown businesses and graffitied buildings that are the problem.”
Lewis maintained that the old-fashioned charm of Broad Street is its defining characteristic. She said she believes that her company’s plan can help North Broad Street renew that charm.
“North Broad has historical significance,” she said. “The Divine Lorraine Hotel and a few mansions were home to some of the country’s wealthiest people.”
Lewis added that “some people are aware of the light rail enhancement [on Girard Avenue] that adds to the charm of North Broad.”
Other new construction along North Broad is also taking place. Lewis recognized that her work may have been the catalyst for these new developments and especially notes Tower Investment’s Edge at Avenue North apartment complex as an undertaking that can help her company in its “streetscape renewal program.”
Although Avenue of the Arts Inc. and The Edge at Avenue North are unrelated projects, Lewis said that their combined effects will result in a fresher-looking Broad Street.
Brandon Dixon, leasing manager for College Park Communities, the management company for The Edge apartments, agreed.
“We can set an example and everyone will follow that example,” he said. “We want to assist in the redevelopment of North Philadelphia.”
The Avenue North complex on Broad Street takes a more commercial approach than Lewis’ endeavors with a seven-plex movie theater, retail stores, restaurants and an apartment building capable of housing 1,200 students.
Dixon said the urban renewal occurring near the Avenue North construction site will increase pedestrian traffic in the area. “People will come to shop and to go to the movies here,” he said.
In addition to the Avenue of the Arts North Project, Lewis said she is striving to redevelop North Philadelphia in other ways. She said she has been working closely with the City Planning Commission to evaluate the possibilities of even more urban enhancement.
Lewis has been collaborating with 5th District Councilman Darrell Clarke to make these improvements. Together the two will issue what Lewis called “a planning document” that details the potential for other types of refurbishments in certain areas of the city.
Dave D’Addario can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.