52nd Street in West Philly has been a commercial hub for many years. It's a street lined with various retailers, as well as street vendors hawking cell phone cases, clothing, and hats. Now some of the faded dull gray parking meters on the corridor, some broken, many with chipped paint, will be transformed into works of art.
"It turns a dated object into a work of art," said Akeem Dixon, 52nd Street Commercial Corridor Manager. Funded by LISC, 10 of 56 meters will be designed to highlight the rich history of the community, while the remaining 46 will display the 52nd Street logo and provide for a uniform theme throughout the commercial corridor. Around the city you'll see similar patterns, like along the Baltimore Avenue corridor, or the rainbow flags around 11th and 12th Streets along Spruce and Pine. Submissions were due by August 10th and the project is slated to begin this October. According to Dixon, in addition to the local historic and artistic element—TEC asked that artists have a connection with West Philly— this will also create some jobs.
The beautification project will serve to engage pedestrians and even drivers passing along the already animated 52nd Street. It's part of a larger 52nd Street Initiative from TEC aimed in general at improving the commercial corridor while indentifying different areas in need of improvement and beginning to generate discourse around such issues. A new sidewalk vendor program, creating new businesses, and connecting community-oriented investors with potential entrepreneurs, are all part of that rubric for modernizing and organizing the 52nd Commercial Corridor. Like the sculpture bike racks in Fishtown, these painted murals are a simple improvement capable of making the area a little bit more engaged and more connected to the people living there.