Category Archives: Community Happenings

West Philadelphia Residents Make Their Mark on Their Community PECCDC and Wells Fargo Regional Foundation Celebrate with Neighbors and Announce Renewed Support

(Philadelphia, PA October 17, 2018) Since 2012, neighbors from Belmont, Mantua, Mill Creek, Saunders Park, and West Powelton have used a community-driven neighborhood plan to make decisions about and advocate for their section of West Philadelphia.  The Make Your Mark plan, developed with residents’ input to inform the agencies and institutions serving their neighborhoods, will be supported for the next five years with funding from Wells Fargo Regional Foundation to People’s Emergency Center Community Development Corporation (PECCDC).

Community stakeholders gathered yesterday to celebrate their accomplishments and look ahead to the future of their area.  Among them were neighbors who spoke about their experience living in West Philadelphia and working with PECCDC to empower the other residents.

Staff from People’s Emergency Center and PECCDC believe that the strengths of the Make Your Mark neighborhood plan include an open and collaborative neighborhood visioning process.  “We start with their ideas of what a thriving community looks like and then design our programs and initiatives,” James Wright, Director of Community, Economic and Real Estate Development for PECCDC notes. “This type of partnership is crucial in ensuring equity, maintaining affordability, and empowering individuals in an area where extensive external investments are being made because the location is very desirable.”

The Make Your Mark plan accomplishments over the past five years include new civic efforts like the West Belmont Civic Association, creation of a community green space at Brooklyn and Ogden Streets, and new partnerships like West Philadelphia Action for Early Learning.  PECCDC implemented activities include building 45 new units of affordable housing, assisting over 100 homeowners with façade repair, helping bring 89 new jobs to Lancaster Avenue, building a communications system to empower community members with information, and developing leaders in the community.  Implementation of the plan was supported with funding from Wells Fargo Regional Foundation in 2011.  The current grant award is $440,000 over the next five years.

“We are pleased to have been partnering with People’s Emergency Center and PECCDC for many years,” states Kimberly Allen, Vice President and Senior Program Officer of the Wells Fargo Regional Foundation, “Resident engagement is at the heart of our work and The Make Your Mark neighborhood plan was so well done that we hold it up as an example of a strong neighborhood plan. Even just the name and branding of the plan was inviting for stakeholders and residents to be engaged.”

PEC was founded 45 years ago to serve families experiencing homelessness.  It established its community development arm PECCDC in 1992, as the agency embarked on an affordable housing strategy by building in the West Philadelphia neighborhood where its shelter was based.

“We look forward to continuing this journey through 2023,” says Kathy Desmond, President of People’s Emergency Center. “PEC and PECCDC are honored to work with our neighbors, the stakeholders in the West Philadelphia neighborhoods, and the Wells Fargo Regional Foundation to encourage the growth of thriving, healthy, communities.”

About PEC and PECCDC

People’s Emergency Center’s (PEC) mission is to nurture families, strengthen neighborhoods and drive change.  For homeless women with children and parenting youth, PEC offers more than 235 affordable housing units, job training, parenting and early childhood education, financial education and planning, life skills and technology classes. The PEC Community Development Corporation (PECCDC)programs respond to community needs and build on neighborhood assets to help bridge the digital divide, expand mixed-income housing opportunities, stimulate economic growth, create wealth, and improve the quality of life for all West Philadelphia residents. PEC advocates for urgently needed public policy changes on behalf of families and youth experiencing homelessness.  Learn more at

About Wells Fargo Regional Foundation

Wells Fargo Regional Foundation is a private foundation that awards Neighborhood Planning Grants and Neighborhood Implementation Grants to support long-term, resident-driven neighborhood revitalization. The foundation’s mission is to improve the quality of life for children and families living in low-income communities in Eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware by concentrating resources on comprehensive, neighborhood-based economic and community development initiatives.  For more information, please visit:





Indego Bike Profile: Lorraine Gomez

by Michael Burch

Meet Lorraine Gomez a longtime resident of East Parkside and a relatively new member of the Indego Bike family. Lorraine lives in Parkside and works in Mantua. Lorraine is the community coordinator at Mount Vernon Manor, a CDC that specializes in neighborhood revitalization and related services to West Philadelphia. Lorraine is also a driving force in her community and serves as block captain to her East Parkside neighborhood and president of VSRA.

She does not yet ride her Indego bike to work but she is building towards it. Lorraine is a stanch supporter of the senior citizens who live in her community. To that end she has partnered with Indego to host community friendly bike workshops for adults to learn to ride a bike again. This turns out to be very helpful for adults who may not have been on a bike in years.

She has run many programs to keep Seniors active. She feels that Indego bikes are a good way to keep seniors active and ambulatory for many years to come. As mentioned earlier a upcoming Adult Learn to Ride class is enrolling people now .These classes teach you the basics of urban riding and give you the confidence and knowledge to ride on Philadelphia streets. If you are interested in being in the next class call 215-910- 9206 for details and look for the flyer in the Parkside Happenings section of this paper. Lorraine is also working with Indego to create a neighborhood bike map for Parkside. That is something new bike riders could use. Lorraine feels that bikes are the perfect solution to the residential parking problem in her neighborhood and are a good way for older residents to stay in shape. For urban living, bikes could be the wave of the future. See you on the trail Lorraine!


THE GLOW: A Jack O’Lantern Experience Returns To Parkside

by Ed Miller

THE GLOW: A Jack O’Lantern Experience brighten ups West Fairmount Park again this October with another family-friendly, immersive Halloween stroll along a quarter-mile trail illuminated by more than 5,000 hand-carved Jack O’Lanterns. Presented by GLOW Holdings LLC and sponsored by the Fairmount Park Conservancy and Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, this Halloween happening will delight visitors as the intricately-carved pumpkins are transformed into beautiful landscapes, iconic figures and larger than life jack o’ lantern structures. Visitors will be wowed by perennial favorites like dinosaurs, a pirate ship and superheroes as well as famous Philadelphians past and present, iconic local landmarks, and a celebration of the Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles. THE GLOW master carvers will also demonstrate live pumpkin carving so visitors can learn how to create their own masterpieces.

Parkside residents are encouraged to apply for openings for event staff and pumpkin carvers needed for the event. “Fairmount Park Conservancy is delighted to support this fun, family event that will provide job opportunities for Parkside residents,” says Jamie Gauthier, Executive Director of the Conservancy. An ad with more information on how to apply for these positions is located on page 15. Deadline for applying is September 15th

Upon opening on October 4th, THE GLOW will run every Thursday-Sunday night through October. Times vary depending on the date. Tickets start at just $16.99 for kids, and are on sale now at

Advanced tickets are required. For more information on dates and times, visit

THE GLOW: A Jack O’Lantern Experience

When: Thursday-Sunday, October 4th-28th

Where: West Fairmount Park, Near the Mann Music Center

Historic Preservationist Of Parkside, Mr. Jim Brown, None Better – By Jim Brown

Photo with Mr. James L. Brown, IV & Mrs. Charlotte
Brown is a picture of Mr. Brown’s first hand-built structure
from a North Philly alley near Temple in 1962.

Recently, I visited the home of the great historic preservationist, Mr. James Leroy Brown, IV and his wife Charlotte. The 80-year old Mr. Brown sat down with this reporter of, no relation, to talk to me about his work, his life and the great reputation he’s built over 54 years as a historic preservationist in Philadelphia’s East Parkside section of West Philadelphia.

Here is Mr. Brown’s Journey in Parkside

Starting his restoration company, the Parkside Historic Preservation Corporation (PHPC) in 1964, James L. Brown was to become an African-American preservationist that few had known but over his career stood out as one of the best in the City of Brotherly Love.

Mr. Brown originally worked as a biologist at Temple Medical Center as a medical researcher from 1960  to 1965.  He began work under Dr. Harry S. Shay who was the Department Head of Gastroenterology at the Fels Research Institute at Temple University.

Mr. Brown was born in 1937. His father was a doctor and his mother was a schoolteacher in the segregated south. He says back then many of the landmark cases in civil rights dealing with school cases were won in Virginia.

Mr. Brown and his wife Charlotte moved from Virginia to Philadelphia in 1961. Mr. Brown rented their first apartment in the Parkside area from the landlord, Mr. William Henderson who was one of the first blacks to purchase one of the mini-mansions on Parkside Avenue at 4224.

Having the love of his life Charlotte Brown, a schoolteacher whom he met through her sorority sister an AKA (Alpha Kappa Alpha) at Whitcomb Court Elementary School in Richmond, Virginia on December 6, 1958.

“It was my first teaching job,” says Mrs. Brown

They both graduated from historically black colleges in Virginia. Mr. Brown is a member of the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity and graduated from Virginia Union in Richmond and Mrs. Charlotte is a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority and graduated from St. Paul College in Lawrenceville.

Mrs. Brown later worked as a schoolteacher at the Morton Mc Michael Elementary School in Mantua during the early 1960’s when they moved to Philadelphia. The two would marry in 1961. They have two adult children, son James L. Brown, V, is a financial planner, a restorator and a property manager. His daughter Nancy W. (Brown) McRae, Esquire and teaches legal writing in Washington, DC at the University of the District of Columbia. They both have two children each.

They worked together to build a life and a business that would benefit and celebrate a community that has reflected their life’s commitment to each other for 56 years and counting.

The Parkside area was going through an ethnic change as the Browns explained. This happens when parts of an area of one ethnic group move out and another ethnic group moves in to create and establish themselves as the new community residents. Mr. Brown stated that the first black to reside in the East Parkside area was a gentleman named Postel Vaughn and he lived on Parkside Avenue.

This was a period when Jewish families began moving out of the Parkside area and African-Americans families were moving in. The buildings were not in very good condition and needed to be rehabbed to the proper living conditions that were expected for families to live in according to Mr. Brown.

“Mrs. Brown says her husband’s first fight to defend his neighborhood was to join forces with the community and protest and boycott a nuisance bar at 42nd Street. People were coming out that bar getting into accidents. We got a petition, went to city hall and wanted that bar removed. This was a movement in Parkside and people were very supportive of the things we fought for in this community.

While living at the Apartments with his wife, in his off hours, a young James Leroy Brown was working with his landlord William Henderson and began rehabbing and working on houses in the neighborhood of East Parkside.

Mrs. Brown mentioned during our recent interview that, “redlining in Parkside in the 1960’s was so prevalent that they were forced to use one income to sustain their family. We saved up enough money to buy our first building, which was a 6-unit apartment building at 4218 Parkside Avenue.

In order for us to get funding and assistance,” says Mrs. Brown. “It was easier for us to get funds if we were restoring and preserving the homes that were already there like they were before (run down and dilapidated).”

“We looked at each other,” adds Mrs. Brown. “And we said, we can save this block. We then started cleaning up the 4200 blocks of Parkside Avenue. ” Mrs. Brown says, “It was absolutely necessary that we sought funding for the work that we were doing. Those areas of funding included the City of Philadelphia, State of Pennsylvania and the Federal government level. We looked for grants and partnerships in order to achieve all of the restorations that was completed here.”

Mr. Brown and wife Charlotte say they were thankful to the Berean Savings & Loan Association at 52nd & Chestnut Street in West Philadelphia. This was the historic black bank that gave them the loan to purchase their first building. People like Mr. Jim Hughes (father of our State Senator Vincent J. Hughes), were instrumental in making that dream happen for the Browns.

Both generations of the Hughes family, the late Jim Hughes and current State Senator Vincent J. Hughes have played an important role in the ventures of Mr. Brown’s Historic Preservation efforts. “Vincent Hughes has been to many of our ribbon-cutting ceremonies,” says Mrs. Brown.  Also, Mrs. Brown reminds us that the wonderful churches in this community have been very supportive of Mr. Brown’s efforts and participation as a community activist over the years.

Mr. Brown was able to meet and network his skills with other community leaders like the Rev. Dr. Andy Jenkins and late Dr. Herman C. Wrice who were having similar issues in their community of Mantua in the early 1960’s when the cultural transitions began for both Mantua and Parkside.

When working for the Redevelopment Authority in the mid 60’s, I met Andy Jenkins of Mantua while he was developing the Mantua Community Planners in Mantua and I was reviewing their plans for their community.

Mr. Brown also worked alongside Rev. Jenkins, and the late Dr. Wrice, who came together to build a set of row homes on the 3600 block of Warren Street across from the former University City High School in the late 1960’s with tenants still currently residing there.

Mr. Brown has made a career in the neighborhood preservation that has captured the eye of thousands when they see his works along the 4100 and 4200 blocks of Parkside Avenue.

In 1994, fire struck The Brentwood Apartments and destroyed a majority of the properties as shown in a photo and article in the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper on Wednesday, June 22, 1994, in the Metro section B from page “Fire Hits Parkside Restoration Row”. Mr. Brown is quoted as saying “Just another challenge”.

Mr. Brown was able to restore the buildings as you see them today from the devastation that the damage had done to the properties during the fire. Wife Charlotte adds, “He doesn’t take ‘No’ for an
answer” when things or problems come up. He has been celebrated with many awards and accolades such as the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia in 1996, the Rudy Bruner Award for Excellence in the Urban Environment in 1999 and the Henry A. Jordan Award for his Outstanding Historic Preservation at the local level for his community.

The Parkside Historic District was created in 1983  because of the preservation work of Mr. Brown. His work in the Parkside area is on the National Register of Historic Places.

All of Mr. Brown’s historic and restored buildings such as The Lansdowne (4102 Parkside Ave.), The Brentwood (4200 – Parkside Ave. and The Brantwood (4146 and 4150-52) can be seen throughout the Parkside area.

For the past few years, The Pennsylvania Lottery uses his building at 42nd & Parkside Avenue as its great backdrop to advertise their winter commercials to promote its lottery scratch-off games. I asked Mr. Brown the question, what advice would you give a student from the School of the Future about becoming a historic preservationist? Mr. Brown responded by saying, “My mother said always give back to your community,” states Mr. Brown. “I had talents and things I could do with my hands.”

“Also, to create something that’s long standing in your community,” adds Mr. Brown. “They should have an interest in history. I want the young people to be passionate about why they want to be a preservationist and work in your community to complete your restoration projects to give your community a sense of pride.”

During Mr. Brown’s journey, he has accomplished many things and done the one thing that many often fail to do, that’s to give something back to your community. That sentiment is a favorite staple of Mr. Brown’s thinking, along with his feeling of the importance of working together and sharing his life with his soul-mate-Charlotte Brown.

Mr. Brown met Muhammad Ali, arguably, the greatest heavyweight champ of all time. He also met Joe Louis, a true champion from his era. Doug Wilder, the first black governor of Virginia, was a good friend and he grew up with Spotswood Robinson and Oliver Hill families and both were civil rights lawyers in Virginia during the segregation era.

The people and celebrities that Mr. Brown has met and befriended gives you a wow moment to think about the people you may meet in your life when creating a passion and need to serve not only your community but your heritage as well.

“As I reflect on the goals that I set out to achieve with my Historic Preservation Company in Parkside,” reflects Mr. Brown. “I have overachieved my goals. Really to my surprise, with belief, faith, and some hard knocks, things worked out. But stay in there brother and everything will be alright.” Mr. Brown has left an indelible mark on the Parkside area and throughout Philadelphia.

“I’d like to see the fruits of my work continue through others,” says Mr. Brown. “In particularly through my children. With the courage and belief that they can do what seems to be impossible can be done. And to do your best and that’s all I can say to them.”

The last question asked to Mr. Brown was about his health and from what I saw during our interview was a tall, lanky man and he walked with a cane. He was reserved, initially but when the conversations started, Mr. Brown was able to give me the information I needed for this story about his life’s work.

“He suffered a mild stroke in December of 2013,” explains Mrs. Brown. “He’s been a real soldier. He’s fought it and he’s doing the very best that he can. And he stopped smoking.”

“It’s been a nice ride with my husband”, says wife Charlotte Brown. Mr. James Leroy Brown turned 81 on August 30th. Happy Birthday Mr. Brown from the Parkside Journal.

This was a great two and a half hour engaging conversation with Mr. Brown and his wife Charlotte that I was excited to have with community history. Know your neighborhood heroes because they live among us.

Email Jim Brown at



A Vision of Inspiration

by Jasmine Bullock

London based artist Richard Wilson has taken a simple desire to paint a beloved actor (Will Smith) and created a vivid symbol of inspiration for students to see every day. Recently, his dream became a reality due largely to the support of the Mural Arts program. (Mural Arts Philadelphia is the nation’s largest public art program and is dedicated to the belief that art ignites positive change.

It seeks to transform public spaces and individual lives). This program enabled Wilson to share his love for art and his appreciation for Philadelphia native Will Smith by creating a representation of the actor on the wall of a warehouse adjacent to the Global Leadership Academy (GLA) Charter School (located at 46th Street and Girard Avenue).

When Richard Wilson began work on the Will Smith mural, school was still in session. Student excitement was evident. For example, rising 5th grader Destin Phillips described watching the muralist work as inspirational. He expressed his interest in the entertainment industry; being able to see a successful entertainer on the walls near his school has made his goal to be an actor seem more realistic.

Parents and guardians of students were also thrilled with knowing that a representation of a Philadelphia legend would grace the property where their young scholars come to be nurtured. Student grandmother and former educator Lynette Jenkins knows that the Will Smith mural will help GLA scholars and other area students to understand that although the children like them are from the inner city and attend public schools, they are still capable of finding individual success. Ms. Jenkins is also hopeful that the mural will inspire classroom conversations about the correlation between hard work and success and interest in stories about the success of other Philadelphia natives, not only in the entertainment industry but also in other career paths. The mural serves as an inspiration to not only the students of GLA but also the immediate neighborhood. To date, there are a total of 10 murals in the area and the number is continually growing. From Ed Bradley on Belmont avenue to Reading a Journey on Pennsgrove Street, color and beauty surround Parkside streets. With the recent addition of the Parkside Edge, the residents of the Parkside community have the opportunity to explore and enjoy both the arts in the neighborhood and the natural beauty of the park.

While inspiring the youth of GLA, the Will Smith mural joins a growing set of murals in Parkside helping to beautify the neighborhood and encourage the growth of arts in the community. The many artistic inspirations include:

  1. Wall of Rugs: The Global language of Textiles (4398, US 30)
  2. History of Parkside, Leidy School (4850 Parkside Avenue)
  3. Black Family Reunion (4850Parkside Avenue)
  4. Will Smith (4545 W. Girard Avenue)
  5. Reading a Journey (3969 Pennsgrove Avenue)
  6. On the Block (3956 Pennsgrove Street)
  7. Animal Kaleidoscope (123 W. Girard Avenue)
  8. In Nature Nothing Exists Alone (Zoological Drive)

The New Parkside Edge

by Michael Burch

The above picture captures the official ribbon cutting for the Parkside Edge project in East Parkside along Parkside Avenue. Here we see City officials, including Mayor Kenney and Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell surrounded by local residents and stakeholders. Jamie Gauthier, the Executive Director of the Fairmount Park Conservancy, is cutting the ribbon.

A major milestone in community development was reached early this summer when the Fairmount Park Conservancy officially opened the parkside edge portion of the Centennial Commons Project in East Parkside. The Edge Project is a $5.4 million dollar renovation of West Fairmount Park along Parkside Avenue, stretching from 41st Street to West Memorial Hall Drive.

The project is designed to bring traffic calming elements, new lighting, plants, and seating to the area. Local residents who used this area before these changes were implemented remember a region covered with very sparse areas of grass, a few large trees, and just plain dirt. The area was poorly lit and had very little seating. That’s all changed now. The new park area has over 60 new trees, rain gardens, upgraded lighting, walking paths and a porch system with unique wooden swings that were modeled after benches first, used at the Philadelphia Centennial.

The Philadelphia Centennial of 1876 is extremely important to the history of Parkside. It is on these grounds in Parkside where the world celebration was held. Remnants of the Centennial can still be seen throughout the park area. Memorial Hall (now the home of The Please Touch Museum), Ohio House and two comfort stations are the only standing structures from the era.

The planned renovation of this area is not done. As discussed in previous articles in the Journal, this is simply the completion of phase one of the Centennial Commons Project. The hope is work can begin on phase two of the project early next year. Plans are underway to raise approximately 8 million dollars for the next phase of the project. This is a huge investment for the Parkside community.

“We are investing so much in the Parkside Community because we believe in this community, and are incredibly inspired by the energy, passion, and commitment of the neighborhood leaders we’ve been fortunate to work with.   ” Said Jamie Gauthier, the Park Conservancy’s executive director.

“Our commitment to Parkside also stems from our belief that every community deserves access to high-quality, well-designed public spaces where they can connect, gather, and recreate. We saw, as many of the residents did, the lack of park and recreational amenities. We saw the need for investment in our beautiful Fairmount Park, and we wanted to work with the community and our City partners to fix those things.”

Plans for this second phase call for having a year round play space for park visitors. There would be a Youth Programs building where specifically planned activities would take place, an ice skating loop, a climbing wall, restrooms and swings. All of these attractions and amenities may serve to drive new development into the Parkside area.

Centennial Village Changes West Parkside

Picture shows the ribbon cutting ceremony at the Centennial Village grand opening in West Parkside near 52nd and Parkside. Mayor Jim Kenney, State Senator Vincent Hughes, Councilmen Curtis Jones, were among political leaders and community stakeholders on hand for the ceremony. Community Leader Lucinda Hudson can be seen in the center of the picture.

The above image is a picture of the ribbon cutting celebrating the opening of the Centennial Village project in West Parkside. The event took place on Thursday, August 23, 2018 and was a collaboration between the City of Philadelphia, Community Ventures and the Parkside Association of Philadelphia. Seemingly, overnight the new project has transformed 52nd Street between Columbia and Parkside Avenues and connecting areas by rejuvenating former vacant lots and run down buildings.

Far from happening overnight the project took more than 20 months to complete. The new project provides 51 units of affordable housing and 7,227 square feet of commercial space.

The full project includes a 30-unit apartment building, a mixed-use building with six residential units and two commercial spaces, and the renovation and new construction of seven single-family homes and one duplex.

“The completion of Centennial Village is a pivotal part of the revitalization efforts in the Parkside community,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “This project eliminated a large area of blight, and brought more affordable housing units to our city. Projects like these impact levels of crime, property values, and community pride. The new apartments, homes, and commercial spaces showcase the City’s continuous commitment to invest in Philadelphia neighborhoods.”

“Parkside Association has been working to build and preserve this West Park Community since 1997,” said Lucinda Hudson, Parkside Association of Philadelphia’s Executive Director and long time community advocate. “The Shopping Center was one milestone. In partnership with Community Ventures again for this latest residential and commercial project, Centennial Village. This will further the growth of West Parkside area. Thank God! God willing more projects will be coming to the West Parkside area.”

For more information on this project go to