The North Broad Renaissance has extended its mission from beyond adding new light poles to a whole revitalization of Broad Street from City Hall to Germantown Avenue—a task that will include projects focusing on maintenance to improving safety.
The lights added to the center medium of Broad Street were initially part of an extension of Avenue of the Arts, until the organization dropped out.
Executive Director of North Broad Renaissance Shalimar Thomas said the project, called “Illuminating North Broad,” is not yet complete and her organization plans to install new light bulbs to make the structures brighter.
Thomas said North Broad Renaissance will work with a consultant—who will be hired by mid-February—to develop a five-year plan that will illustrate how the projects are executed as well as their impact on the surrounding community.
“We don’t want to have action without any specific plans,” Thomas said, adding feedback from businesses along Broad Street is essential.
“I’d love to see more green on Broad Street, but businesses didn’t want trees because it could block people from seeing their stores or take up space on the sidewalk,” she added.
North Broad Renaissance has about 145 stakeholders located on North Broad Street that include churches, residents and businesses that give feedback to the nonprofit. The organization’s website provides directions for applying to be a stakeholder, and Thomas added anyone who lives or works on North Broad Street from City Hall to Germantown Avenue could join at any time.
“A lot of people think that a stakeholder can only be a business leader, but it can be anyone,” she said. “We want to hear their voice, what challenges they have, what was a success.”
Thomas added a focus of the organization is to make sure “anyone who lives there now can stay.”
Anthony D. Bonner, a stylist and manager for Asanti Hair Studio at 1220 N. Broad St., said the revitalization would still “come with a price.”
“In a major metropolitan area like this, [gentrification] may have to happen,” he said. “It’s an inevitable part of the process, but it’s not the reason or purpose. They should have some kind of effort to make sure the people who have been here for generations get to stay here.”
Bonner entered business on Broad Street almost four years ago after a year of working in the area. He said he could “feel what was coming” and “got in right at a good time.”
Bonner said he would like to see parks built in the area because playgrounds are necessary near daycares.
“The kids deserve a place to play away from the adult stuff they see on the sidewalks,” he said. He added retail stores like the ones in Center City would also be beneficial to the community.
Thomas said in addition to the stakeholders, many people affected by the organization’s projects are community members living on streets adjacent to Broad Street. She added while they cannot necessarily be a part of stakeholder meetings because they are not directly on Broad Street, they can still ask for information on developments and projects.
“I just don’t want to see the people who’ve helped make this neighborhood get pushed out,” Bonner said.
Julie Christie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ChristieJules