by Joyce Smith
A Clean, Green and Safe community was the immediate goal the nascent Centennial Parkside Community Development Corporation (CPCDC) conveyed to East Parkside residents at their well-attended coming out meeting at Community Baptist Church at 41st Parkside Avenue on November 10, 2016.
Scott talked about the board’s outreach & communication effort that included formalizing partnerships with organizations such as Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporation, neighborhood community groups, block captains and stakeholders like Viola Street Residents Association. It was pointed out the CDC’s commitment to work with academic institutions as well as building a relationship with Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell will help the CDC implement long range plans. And one of the plans in process is the CPCDC working with the Philadelphia Planning Commission to update and improve the zoning in East Parkside. Scott explained that the “remapping” will better define the community’s distressed business corridor and increase single family homeownership. Councilwoman Blackwell support is crucial to legislate the remapping.
Residents were encouraged to become more engaged in the neighborhood building like members from the VSRA who partnered with the CDC to carry out the successful September 24, 2016 Viola Alley Connector event.
The Viola Connector was a major boost for East Parkside with almost 500 neighborhood people and visitors from across the city in attendance. The event that took place in the alleyway shared between 42nd Parkside and Viola street was a prototype of a larger proposal to transform an underutilized alley into a place making space for civic engagement and entertainment activities. It was a celebration of East Parkside rich history and a demonstration of how organizations collaborating through programming can enliven and change perceptions of a space, increase civic pride and ownership.
Funded by Knight Foundation’s Innovation Fund the “alley festival” included an array of activities that was carried out by partners like Bartram’s Garden whose staff brought a farm stand to the alley; the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Culinary Literacy Center provided a cooking demonstration and the Fairmount Park Conservancy displayed maps and distributed information about the Centennial Commons plan to bring amenities to the park edge in West Fairmount Part. The Conservancy also provided tables and chairs and the Pennsylvania Horticulture Society help green the alley with planters.
Local artists, a drill team, singers and an African dance ensemble help create an atmosphere where all participants celebrated and learned about the history of the neighborhood. Penn Praxis compiled data from the event that will help gauge interest in a future community food trust; the Neighborhood Alliance conducted an “asset mapping” survey to help identify the neighborhoods strengths and resources. The CPCDC looks forward to future programming in the community and collaborations that helped make the V.C. Connector a success.
Currently the Centennial Parkside is negotiating a contract to lease the historic Letitia House in Fairmount Park for office location: reputed to be a house that William Penn built for his daughter. The CDC launched a funding campaign to help raise money for the venture that can be accessed via the CDC’s new website at http://centennialparkside.org
Residents expressed concerns about the neighborhood’s future, job opportunities and housing costs. It will take time before the CPCDC can address such lofty goals… But, as one resident put it we have to take it “one block at a time”.