In West Philly, members of Cedar Park Neighbors (CPN) dream of a revitalized Baltimore Ave. bringing renewed energy into their entire community. A year of community discussion and a collaboration with the Community Design Collaborative (CDC) produced the 2010 Baltimore Avenue Corridor Community Design Study.

The project area

This plan synthesizes responses generated from community discussion and the expertise of architectural, design, and planning professionals from CDC, regarding the areas on and around Baltimore Ave., between 49th and 52nd Sts.

This stretch of Baltimore Ave. includes Vix Emporium and Klash Boutique on the 5000 block, a health center, a church, a pharmacy, Philly Fire and Credit Union, Dock Street Pub, along with numerous vacant buildings and empty parcels. Also on those blocks are thirteen city owned parcels, according Maureen Tate of CPN. Looking at vacant buildings, like the four on both sides of the 5000 block, the plan considers how those properties evolved into their current states and what could be developed there. There is also an approximate combined tax delinquency on this stretch of more than $200K.

Four vacant properties

And four more, across the street

During four community meetings leading up to the crafting of the plan, residents told the group they wanted fresh groceries, green space, community gardens, improved façades on dilapidated buildings, streetscaping, and buildings with mixed commercial/residential use to develop the business corridor, according to Tate. Community support also leaned towards the construction of a community senior center, perhaps on the 5000 block of Baltimore. Tate said residents do not want new businesses like those already in the area like a dollar store or hair salon. Rather, they would prefer to see new amenities, like a hardware store, or garden center.

Plan for the corridor

Tate stressed that this is merely a plan right now.

“[It says] this is what you said, this is what’s possible … We want to say, ‘this is something the community needs. It’s in the interest of the community for something to happen,’” she said.

“It also brought fresh eyes to the neighborhood,” she said. That’s because urban planners, developers and organizers are sometimes seeing neighborhoods for the first time. Those fresh eyes can make before unseen connections, like the idea to perhaps connect Malcolm X Park (52nd St. and Cedar Ave.) and Kingsessing Park (49th St. and Chester Ave.).

If anything, she thinks “it has opened up people’s thinking about those properties.” And they say, the first step to recovery is to recognize the problem.

–Lou Mancinelli