Past the acres of diamonds lies a Pearl.
But is it as precious as it was hoped to be? Pearl Theatre, located in the new $100 million Avenue North complex, is the first movie theater to open in North Philadelphia in almost four decades, but on the night of Dec. 6, it was just another stage for a city shooting. Days after the Pearl opened for business, shots were fired near Oxford Street, resulting in the hospitalization of a 16-year-old boy.
More than a month has passed since then, but the effects of violence still linger. As local residents continue to worry about safety, surrounding store owners are just trying to stay in business.
“I like it so far,” said Danielle Stephens, 18. “It’s nice and big.”
Stephens, a senior at South Philadelphia High School, was talking about the Avenue North complex which has 20 rental stores including Bank of America, Qdoba Mexican Grill, Foot Locker and Kochoos. As she looks forward to seeing a movie at Pearl Theatre she also hopes contractors will soon install more lights and security camerasv.
“People need to be careful walking out at night and be aware of what’s going on,” she said. “But there needs to be more security.”
But for one Temple student, that night offered only a preview of things to come. Melanie Hernandez, a junior human resource management major who lives in Temple Towers, will travel to movie theaters at Franklin Mills or Neshaminy malls before setting foot into Pearl Theatre.”I don’t feel safe,” she said.
“They’re trying to make it a positive neighborhood, but it’s not going to happen.” One concern Hernandez has is for the young college females who decide to catch a late night movie. She fears that they may become victims of rape. For North Philadelphia resident Nasir Muhhamad, 19, he will be attending the seven-screen multiplex no matter what.
“It’s North Philly. People get shot every day,” he said. “Five minutes [into the new year] I heard gun shots.” Muhhamad also said that the incident was just a coincidence.
“It could have happened a block up or a block down. But no, it happened right there,” he said.
Some businesses around the area were unaffected by that night, as though it never happened.
J. Lansky, owner of Phenomenal Records,
located at 1432 Cecil B. Moore Ave., is not going to let the incident stand in the way of his routine while running his music store. Instead of thinking about the past, he is looking toward the future and cannot wait for his business to boom now that Avenue North is completed.
“It will help definitely,” he said. “It will attract more people to the neighborhood.” Charlotte Adams, manager of The New Barber’s Hall, a bar across the street from Pearl Theatre, said that business has been great. However, there is one negative consequence since the establishment of the complex.
“We just can’t park,” she said. Any student commuter knows the difficulty of finding a parking space on and around campus. But with the new complex, this will become a greater issue.
With 20 busy rental shops and a theater equipped to fit about 1400 people, the one-hour parking meters along Broad Street just aren’t enough.The complex has a parking lot, but it can only hold about 120 vehicles. Parking is the least of Abdul Ha-Mid’s concerns. Ha-Mid, owner of and barber at Mecca Unisex Hair Salon, located at 1420 Cecil B. Moore Ave., is worried that he and other surrounding business owners will have to move out.
With a lease almost running out, he fears that his landlord will raise the rent equivalent to what the tenants are paying at Avenue North.
“I believe when big businesses and corporations come in they should have safeguards for small local businesses that have been here for years,” he said. Ha-Mid explained that when a nearby Rite Aid was built, it took business away from small convenient stores. He fears that history will repeat itself and Avenue North will “push minorities into the poor areas,” he said, pointing west of Cecil B. Moore Avenue.
However, Ha-Mid said that he is not opposed to the erection of Avenue North, but only dissatisfied with Pearl Theatre’s design and its location at Oxford Avenue as opposed to Cecil B. Moore Avenue.
“It’s shady back there,” he said. “People get high and hustle drugs. It’s not secure.”
Anne Ha can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.