The recent opening of the Draught Horse, along with the planned development of the Jump Street shopping complex, have centered much attention on revitalization efforts around Cecil B. Moore Avenue.
But the south end of campus is not the only site of revitalization and change. The Avenue of the Arts North-North Broad Street stretches past campus in the other direction, as well.
Part of this project belongs to the Uptown Cultural District Group, the leading advocate for the Avenue of the Arts North is seeing to that. The group is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization made of “residents, businesses, and non-profit organizations dedicated to the cultural enrichment and revitalization of North Broad” and North Philadelphia, said the UCDG Chairperson of the Board Linda Richardson.
The UCDG’s boundaries extend from Spring Garden Street to Glenwood Avenue, and from 12th to 18th Streets. The group is specifically focused, though, on the 2200 block of North Broad Street, one block north of White Hall. The group currently meets there, at the offices of the Black United Fund, its major contributor.
“We emerged because there was no real concentration on the neighborhood development, just the downtown development,” said Richardson.
But neighborhood development is in the works because of help from Temple and the University of Pennsylvania.
The UCDG plans on expanding the Philadelphia Doll Museum, which was the first African-American doll museum in the country when it opened in 1997.
The museum, at 2253 N. Broad St., has over 250 African-American dolls on display. It is also an education and resource center, with a growing research library.
“We do have people doing dissertations on dolls,” said Barbara Whiteman, the executive director of the museum.
The museum already has many seasonal and annual events throughout the year, such as the museum’s famous International Doll Show, held at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, to be held this year from May 16-17.
A second place the UCDG is working on is the large Uptown Theater, also on the 2200 block. The group plans to provide more entertainment there, especially for Temple students. The theater has found that within a 5-mile radius, the median income is $30,000, so there is discretionary income that can be spent, Richardson said. The theater recently had an African-American film festival, and would like to do international film festivals in the future to attract Temple students.
If they receive funding for it, the UCDG will work with Temple on the North Philadelphia Direction Sign Project, for which Temple and the group will put up directional signs to guide visitors to the neighborhood’s various cultural sites.
Even more projects may be coming shortly. University of Pennsylvania students are conducting a planning study on further uses of the 2200 block as a tourist destination. The UCDG hopes the report is finalized in May, and that they can then solicit funding to carry out the Penn students’ plans.
The group has plans for the Avenue of the Arts North outside of the 2200 block, as well. They hope to have the Blue Horizon Boxing Club, at Broad and Master Streets, renovated, and will work with the Metropolitan Opera House at Broad and Poplar streets to turn the Met into a gospel entertainment venue.
Richardson encourages Temple students to venture north and visit the museum, the theater, and Art Sanctuary. Art Sanctuary is, according to its calendar of events, “an African-American arts and letters organization devoted to presenting outstanding regional and national talent in the literary, visual and performing arts.”
The organization’s productions are at the Church of the Advocate, on 18th and Diamond streets. On April 21, the organization will present a lecture and demonstration on contemporary dance by choreographer Ron K. Brown, Temple dance professor Eva Gholson, and nationally ranked dance company Philadanco.
The UCDG tries to “take advantage of the resources of Temple,” Richardson said, complimenting the community’s development with student needs. In addition, both the UCDG and the doll museum would love to have volunteers from Temple, so they can better develop programs of interest to students.
Whiteman joked that Penn students will come all the way from West Philly to see their block, but Temple students won’t even cross Susquehanna. The UCDG is trying to change that. “There is currently activity in the 2200 block Temple students can participate in,” Richardson said.