Germantown Avenue, one of Philadelphia’s historic commercial corridors, traverses North Philadelphia, showcasing the city’s disparate urban conditions. Where Germantown crosses Lehigh, the bones of a once vibrant mixed-use market place remain visible, evidencing varied degrees of disinvestment as well as efforts to revitalize. Along The Avenue here are more than 75 businesses that employ over 250 people. Nearly 5,500 residents live in the surrounding blocks, and hundreds of passengers ride by each day on the Route 23 bus. Partially vacant but still active and evolving, The Avenue begs for a fresh identity to put it back on the map and resources to help put storefronts back in business.
To catalyze positive change in the near-term, the City scheduled the planning process to unfold with a major Mural Arts Program initiative along The Avenue entitled Philly Painting. The large-scale murals will reactivate The Avenue’s visible corner properties and vacant upper floors by introducing a public artscape unlike any other in the city or nation. Working with the artists and the City, we drafted an Early Action Plan outlining critical next steps for City agencies to follow in laying important groundwork necessary to secure funding and jump start elements of plan implementation including corridor cleaning, public safety improvements, and storefront upgrades, which are already underway.
The massive murals will dramatically alter The Avenue’s public image, but the transformative public art must be paired with investments at street level – on the sidewalks, in the storefronts, within adjacent blocks – not only to maximize the impact of the new art, but to ensure that revitalization strengthens the community.
Our recommendations are structured to help achieve the vision for The Avenue as a defined and recognized space – a destination for visitors and a source of pride for local residents and merchants – a place of art, commerce, and culture in the heart of North Philadelphia.