Archive for the ‘UCD’ Category

UCD Lighting installations improve safety at 46th and Market

April 13, 2012

Before last month, if you left the 46th and Market SEPTA station at night, you would likely be in for a dark walk home, past vacant properties, unlit parking lots and poorly lit homes and businesses. Indeed, the station had become infamous as a crime hot-spot. Since then, SCI-West and University City District (UCD) have finished lighting upgrades near the transit hub and the area has already seen a lower incidence of crime.

“Between this time last year and this time this year, the crimes are down dramatically,” says Steve Walsh, Director of Community and Business Services at UCD. “So far our efforts are really paying dividends.”

Photographs taken on Farragut Street demonstrate the improved lighting.

After participating in a LISC Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) training, SCI-West partners developed strategies to mitigate crime and opportunities for crime around the target area’s two major transit hubs: 40th and Market Streets, and 46th and Market Streets. Following this training, UCD completed a lighting study and hired a consultant to craft a plan for the improved lighting around the 46th and Market SEPTA station.

In February, UCD completed the installation of the 15 150-Watt pedestrian-level street lights along Farragut and 46th Streets, near the SEPTA station.

“It looks like daylight out there at night,” Walsh says. “But no matter how lit up it is, you’re always going to have a few folks who are not aware of their surroundings.”

The 46th and Market Transit Hub Collaboration: Combining safety and community development

In addition to pedestrian lighting improvements, UCD is working with neighborhood businesses to make sure their lights are working properly and will be installing 40 free porch lights for residents along Farragut and 46th Streets. Although some residents were hesitant at first, UCD has worked to build awareness among residents around lighting, community safety, and energy efficiency. Walsh and his colleagues explain to residents, “When you put the lights on, it looks like everyone is really caring and watching out.” And by using energy-saving CFL bulbs, each resident’s contribution to improved community safety will cost only $0.68 per month.

Furthermore, UCD has deployed “Ambassador” [LU1] deployments around 46th and Market to coordinate with the Philadelphia Police Department and the University of Pennsylvania Police, for an overall stronger police presence.  Uniformed in green and yellow, Public Safety Ambassadors are unarmed officers equipped with two-way radios that serve as a highly visible deterrent to crime by riding through the neighborhood on bike.

In addition to its security and lighting improvements, UCD is also working with owners of vacant lots in the area to keep the grass cut and trash picked up. “We’re keeping the area clean,” says Walsh, “because a clean neighborhood gives the perception of a safer neighborhood.” UCD is also working with the Philadelphia Housing Authority to cut down a walled staircase to allow better visibility at one pedestrian walkway.

UCD ambassadors.

Other safety efforts at 46th and Market complement UCD’s focus on security and lighting. For example, The Enterprise Center (TEC) has worked to stabilize a vacant lot near the 46th Street SEPTA station with the Walnut Hill Community Farm, providing educational opportunities for area youth.

“If you have an empty lot – no one cares,” Walsh explains. “If you have a farm, like the Walnut Hill Community Farm, if you have the community coming together to take care of a large parcel of empty land and clean it up and build something, the community really takes pride in, it reduces opportunities for crimes.” Similarly, UCD is transforming a vacant property at 43rd and Market Street into a community compost center.

Philadelphia LISC and SCI West are expanding these small but significant improvements into a broader 46th and Market Transit Hub Collaboration that will catalyze further improvements, from landscaping, signage, and beautification to more intense improvements like real estate development and retail attraction.

A comprehensive community safety strategy for West Philadelphia

SCI-West’s safety efforts go beyond the 46th and Market transit hub. Partnering with UCD and area stakeholders, we are taking a comprehensive approach to community safety throughout West Philadelphia, deploying complementary strategies beyond lighting improvements and using CPTED principles.  In this model, engaging the community and connecting residents with social services and better opportunities [LU2] are prioritized in addition to physical developments (like lighting) to improve community safety.

Walsh agrees that the community building efforts of organizations in West Philly are necessary components of a community safety strategy. “By doing these community activities, it gets you out to meet your neighbors . . . The more people know each other, the more they’ll watch out for each other.”

The Walnut Hill Community Farm has transformed a vacant lot into an active and positive community space near the 46th Street station.

For example, The Enterprise Center’s community planning efforts in Walnut Hill, housing development plans along Market St., and support for local and minority-owned businesses all contribute to this all-inclusive approach to crime reduction.

Also related are the community planning, supportive services, education, and commercial corridor efforts of the other two SCI West partners: the People’s Emergency Center and the Partnership CDC. Their respective efforts improve West Philadelphia neighborhoods by empowering residents.

Community cleanups, including the multiple Philly Spring Clean Up events in the area on April 14, provide a great opportunity to demonstrate the comprehensive approach. “A clean neighborhood demonstrates that people are aware that they live there and they know their blocks,” explains Walsh.

Certainly, physical repairs help, too. Following the “Broken Windows” theory, which says that crime and blight correlate, SCI West and its partners are strategizing for ways to revitalize homes, storefronts, and blighted properties. The Green Block Build Collaborative, for example, looks to revitalize a block through a combination of critical home repairs, cool roof installations, tree planting, block beautification, and connecting homeowners to a host of supportive services.

“We have a great opportunity because we have such diversity here [in West Philly],” says Walsh. “‘What can we do together to help each other?’ That is a great sense of community. This is us helping us, to make where we live and work and play safe and fun.”

Corridors Connect Focus Group Dinner

March 16, 2012

Corridors Connect will build the capacity of Business Associations across West Philadelphia commercial corridors through training and technical assistance over the next nine months. Business owners and community leaders from six different commercial corridors gathered last night to begin building connections and make recommendations to shape the program. Here are some photos of the event!

Corridors connect is a collaboration led by The Enterprise Center with partnership of SCI West, Philadelphia LISC, the Partnership CDC, People’s Emergency Center, University City District, the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians, the Philadelphia Commerce Department, and the Drexel University Center for Social Policy.

The arts and economic development work together on West Philly corridors

March 8, 2012

In October and November, hundreds of residents and visitors flocked to the Lower Lancaster Avenue galleries, restaurants, public spaces, and businesses.

They were here for LOOK! on Lancaster Avenue, a two-month program sponsored by the People’s Emergency Center (PEC) and University City District (UCD), that brought art installations to the windows and storefronts of vacant buildings, group art shows to galleries and public spaces, and public performances to various locations along the Avenue.

“Lancaster Avenue is a perfect example, where art can be an intermediate step between a vacant building and a completely thriving local economy,” explains Joe McNulty, Commercial Corridor Manager with University City District. “The Look on Lancaster project changed people’s perspectives about those blocks of Lancaster that have been empty and desolate for years. It was a way to bring people walking back down here and say: ‘This could be a really thriving corridor.’”

Lancaster Avenue is not alone. Across the SCI-West target area, organizations are using the arts to strengthen development on commercial corridors. Corridor managers like McNulty work with residents, businesses, business associations, and Community Development Corporations (CDCs) to revitalize the commercial corridors in West Philadelphia: Lancaster Avenue, 40th Street, Spruce Street, Baltimore Avenue, and 45th and Walnut Streets.

These stories of creative efforts on West Philadelphia commercial corridors reveal the effectiveness of including arts initiatives into any commercial development strategy.

Lancaster Avenue

LOOK! on Lancaster attracted hundreds of people to visit Lancaster Avenue, view the work of local artists, and spend their money at businesses all along the corridor. Its other benefits are real, but less quantifiable. “Events like these create interest in the area, and promote a sense of pride in the neighborhood,” said McNulty.

LOOK! on Lancaster also draws attention to an already engaged art community. Artists around Lancaster Avenue have been active in neighborhood revitalization for nearly four decades: renovating properties, exhibiting art, and performing locally.

“Having folks like that who really bought into their own community, with their own sweat equity and real money, promoting art has been really valuable for Lancaster Ave,” said McNulty.

Another SCI-West partner, the People’s Emergency Center (PEC) promotes the arts through a larger event. For the past five years, (PEC) has hosted the Lancaster Avenue Jazz and Arts Festival. The event attracts hundreds of families to Saunders Park with live jazz, dance, spoken word, art exhibits, workshops, and an open-air market. The annual event celebrates the rich history of arts in Philadelphia, stimulates the local economy, and energizes the community.

In warmer months, PEC and UCD host Second Friday events on Lancaster Avenue to showcase galleries and exhibitions. They dropped the event a few years ago due to budgetary restrictions, but have since revived it on a shoestring budget, citing its many benefits for the corridor.

A number of creative organizations have served as artistic anchors for the Avenue as well.

Audiences from all over attend performances at The Community Education Center (CEC), founded nearly four decades ago by community members looking to use art and culture to inspire creativity and goodwill. “Art enriches the lives of families in this community,” says Terri Shockley, [position] of the CEC. “The arts are about making individuals and communities stronger and more resilient.”

The Gwendolyn Bye Dance Studio has also engaged young people in dance classes since 1986. A local coffee shop, The Green Line Café, showcases the work of local artists. A number of other galleries and studio spaces provide space for artists to create and exhibit work.

Ultimately, these artistic efforts are changing the conversation about Lancaster Avenue. “The message is,” says McNulty, “That this is a viable neighborhood. This is a place where you could raise a child, you could open a business. You could do anything here.”

40th Street

At the crossroads of historically distinct communities, 40th Street embodies the diversity of West Philadelphia. Here the arts play a critical role in speaking across boundaries of race, class background, and generation.

The corridor is anchored by two key arts organizations: the Rotunda (at 4014 Walnut St) and the Artists In Residence (AIR) program (at 4007  Chestnut St). (See “Creativity as Engagement” for more on their efforts)

It was also on 40th Street that West Philadelphia Arts Connect was born. The collaboration of artists and arts organizations across West Philly originated from Friends of 40th Street meetings.

Looking forward, UCD and PEC plan to collaborate on several projects around 40th Street. The organizations hope to encourage pedestrian traffic and development, including public art installations that will coincide with tree planting and beautification efforts. Projects will include pole painting, public sculpture, and art installations on and in vacant buildings.

Baltimore Avenue

The artistic efforts and commercial amenities on Baltimore Avenue improve the quality of life for residents across West Philadelphia.

In February, West Philly was one of 20 cities to host a Fun-A-Day art show, organized by the Artclash Collective and exhibited at Studio 34 on Baltimore Ave. Thousands of people visited the two-day exhibition.

Even arts businesses are finding a home in West Philly. Aside from the galleries on Lancaster, there’s Vix Emporium, a “general store” selling the handmade gifts and art of mostly local artists using a consignment system. Emily Dorn, manager at Vix, says, “This area needed a place like this: a place to buy a gift.” Because these gifts are local, special, and practical, Vix is creating a win-win for local artists and consumers.

UCD promotes the arts on Baltimore Avenue in many ways. They organize Second Saturdays, a monthly arts fair outside Dock Street Brewing Company that brings foot traffic to the neighborhood and helps support local artists. Additionally, they have invited artists to contribute designs for new Baltimore corridor banners.

There are clear benefits to the arts, McNulty says, including engaging residents in community issues, improving the image of the neighborhood, attracting residents and visitors to patronize local businesses, and inspiring entrepreneurs to open businesses that can serve community needs.

“Ultimately, we are looking to make our neighborhoods more livable.”

Skills Initiative Update

March 8, 2012

The West Philadelphia Skills Initiative is being carried out by University City District and places young adults in the SCI-West target area on a career path by providing apprenticeship positions in area medical institutions and tuition-free courses at Community College of Philadelphia.

The first cohort of students in the Penn Medicine Apprenticeship program are currently working part-time and attending classes part-time, allowing them the freedom to commit equally to the apprenticeship and coursework, without the burden of extra work. LISC funds pay the students as if they were full-time employees. This unlocks employer-funded tuition benefits that allow them to attend classes at no expense to themselves.

Additionally, SCI West is using this pilot program as the centerpiece of a new Financial Opportunity Center (FOC) in West Philadelphia, slated to open before spring 2012. The Opportunity Center will be a physical space that links West Philadelphia residents directly to local employers, and to the practical training around job skills, financial education, and benefits access they need to thrive. Through the FOC, participants in the pilot program will be able to receive one-on-one financial coaching, training around accessing benefits, and other extra supports.

New lighting marks beginning of 46th and Market Street Transit Hub Collaboration

March 8, 2012

An Update on the SCI-West Clean & Safe Project

Philadelphia LISC, the national LISC Community Safety Initiative, and the SCI-West partner organizations are working on a project led by UCD that aims to reduce crime through the creation of partnerships between West Philadelphia CDCs and police districts.

In February, UCD completed the installation of the pedestrian-level street lights near one of West Philadelphia’s major transit hubs: 46th and Market Streets, part of SCI West’s comprehensive Community Safety Initiative.

After participating in a LISC Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) training, SCI West partners worked to develop strategies to mitigate crime and opportunities for crime around the target area’s two major transit hubs at 40th and 46th and Market. Following this training, UCD completed a lighting study and hired a consultant to craft a plan for an improved lighting strategy for the 46th and Market area. Moving forward with implementing this lighting plan, UCD will also begin installation of residential porch lights near the hub this week.

SCI West aims to expand these small but significant improvements into a broader 46th and Market Transit Hub Collaboration that would work for further improvements (from landscaping and signage to more intense improvements like real estate development and retail attraction).

SCI-West Philadelphia Gateway

June 11, 2010

The United Bank of Philadelphia’s parking lot was full of people attending the West Philadelphia Gateway Green Wall Dedication on June 10, 2010.

West Philadelphia Gateway Green Wall Dedication

June 4, 2010

You’re Invited to the West Philadelphia Gateway Green Wall Dedication.

RE:flect a Sculpture by JEFRE

June 10, 2010 from 4-6pm at United Bank of Philadelphia located at 38th Street and Powelton Avenue.

Please join Mural Arts, Sustainable Communities Initiative West (Enterprise CDC, Partnership CDC, People’s Emergency Center CDC, Local Initiative Support Coalition, and University City District) and United Bank of Philadelphia for a dedication and reception to celebrate the completion of the first “green wall” sculpture of its kind in Philadelphia. Reception/Open House with jazz to follow.

UCD Video

August 18, 2009

Short video about SCI-West partner, UCD. Video: Yanik Ruiz-Ramon, LISC.