It is mandatory in
As it happens, we have the competing models on display in two neighborhoods just two miles apart from one another.
In one corner, there is
In the other corner, there is
Fumo, now serving time in a federal prison in
The Passyunk Ave. revival was the principal mission of Fumo's non-profit, Citizens Alliance for Better Neighborhoods, whose coffers were fed by millions given by PECO and the Delaware River Port Authority.
Fumo went to jail, in part, for using Citizen's
Last week, the latest act of the Passyunk story was played out.
Paul Levy, head of the Center City District and a court-appointed overseer of Citizens Alliance, announced the end of the old organization that ran business along the avenue, creation of a new entity called the Passyunk Avenue Revitalization Corp., and the hiring of a new executive director, local developer Sam Sherman Jr.
Sherman takes over an organization with nearly $3 million in the bank - due mostly to the sale of a few of the Fumo era properties -- plus an income of $400,000 a year derived mostly from rent paid by tenants in 15 commercial properties along the avenue.
Through the prince is gone, the goal of the new organization remain the same: to guide development along the avenue so that it keeps its healthy mix of restaurants and stores that draw outsiders and those that cater to local residents - florists, coffee shops, hardware stores, etc.
That's easier to do if you own a number of those properties and can manage them, in the same way the operator of a shopping mall works to assure a mix of tenants.
As Levy put it in his report to the courts: "One of the successes of the retail leasing program of the
Levy was talking about the Passyunk Avenue of today, but he could have just as easily been describing the South Street of 20 years ago, with its mix of funky shops (Zipperhead, the Eyes Gallery, Condom Nation; new and old restaurants (Tang's, Café Nola, Knave of Hearts, Jim's Steaks); and its neighborhood friendly stores (TLA Video, Cohen's Hardware, Blockbuster, Chef's Market, Book Trader, etc.)
What happened to
The growing rep of the street attracted retail chains, which in turn resulted in a dramatic rise in rents, which in turn drove out smaller shops and residential customers. When the corporate-owned chains failed or fled (Gap, Tower Records,
The result is a commercial block divorced from its own neighborhood.
But the revival of
Fumo's enduring insight was to think like a smart developer: acquire a coagulant mass of commercial properties so development could be nurtured and directed. The success of this strategy has yielded a stream of capital the new revitalization group needs to maintain the area (through regular street cleaning, curbside improvements, etc) and still have a hand in managing commercial development of the area.
Lessons learned: best to manage development, assure a mix of tenants, and never lose focus on the fact that keeping the surrounding neighborhood connected with the commercial strip is crucial.
Even if it does take a prince to do it.