Along North Broad Street, things are looking better than they have in decades, and more changes are coming. There’s construction near Temple, numerous condo and apartment conversions, and the award-winning Osteria. It’s as if Broad Street blight, once as rampant as morning traffic, has become a Broad Street boom.
The west side of the 800 block of North Broad, which stretches Parrish to Brown Streets, serves as an example of what’s happening. New business activity is taking place on the block in the coming months, including the opening of Dulce Lounge (812 N. Broad) and the renovation of Flambo Caribbean Restaurant (820 N. Broad).
“Broad Street is coming up,” said Barbara Kelley, of the Francisville Neighborhood Development Corporation (FNDC).
Its revitalization is anchored by Bart Blatstein’s redevelopment of the State and Inquirer buildings, and plans to renovate the Divine Lorraine, one of the city’s iconic yet abandoned and dilapidated buildings. It’s almost as if the Divine Lorraine represents three decades of North Philly blight, and now the tools are poised to come out of the shed and fix up the lawn.
For the past year, Kelley has worked with developers, neighbors, and the City to attract interest to North Broad. She said L&I and the Streets Department, and the 9th and 22nd Police Districts have been essential in assisting her, FNDC and the community in cleaning up the area, from trash to blight. The ongoing revitalization of the 800 block of North Broad and the entire area represents collaboration among groups and individuals who understand that their neighborhood depends on its relationships with abutting neighborhoods. That includes one owner who owns six buildings along the block and is working toward renovating them and attracting investment. Kelley praised the vision of Eric Blumenfeld for his work relating to the community and his vision for the Divine Lorraine. She said the people working on rebuilding North Broad care about what happens there.
“We’re not allowing it to stay just status quo and the community is behind it,” said Kelley. It just goes to show how large developments can serve as an anchor and lay the foundation for the small scale revitalization of a neighborhood that’s finally hitting its stride after several decades of false starts.