by Paula M. Riley
On Thursday morning, residents, shoppers and business owners were greeted by a sight they had not seen in weeks: parking spaces available on Germantown Avenue and Bethlehem Pike. After weeks of huge snow piles clogging spaces, stalled traffic as buses navigated the narrow street, and the all-too-familiar sound of side mirrors getting clipped off cars, the main corridors in Chestnut Hill were finally cleared.
This was no small feat.
Like so many other initiatives that contribute to the quality of life in Chestnut Hill, the clearing of snow was not a random act. Rather, the effort was the result of a collaborative effort by groups committed to maintaining a healthy business corridor and living environment in Chestnut Hill.
When the sun came up on Thursday morning, the Streets Department’s vehicles were just leaving the Avenue after a long night of work. Six dump trucks and four front-end loaders spent over eight hours removing snow to clear parking spaces on Germantown Avenue, from Cresheim Valley to Chestnut Hill Avenue, and along Bethlehem Pike.
This project began with business owners.
Business owners contacted the Chestnut Hill Business Association (CHBA) to share these complaints and request assistance. Martha Sharkey, executive director of the CHBA, Business Improvement District (BID) and Parking Foundation, brought the concerns to the BID board meeting where ideas were examined and solutions were explored, including the pricing of a private snow removal effort.
The BID decided to reach out to 8th District City Councilwoman Cindy Bass for assistance. Bass, or a member of her staff, frequently attends BID meetings and remains informed of BID activities.
“Councilwoman Bass has shown a real interest in the neighborhood and the health of business corridor, so we turned to her for help,” said Seth Shapiro, president of the board of the BID.
Upon receiving the request from the BID, Bass began working with the Streets Department to get the snow cleared. After some negotiating, trucks and personnel were secured. But a new problem arose.
Where would they put all the snow?
Bass’ team got back with Sharkey who reached out to Richard Snowden, owner of Bowman Properties which owns the former Magarity showroom lot. Snowden agreed to have all the snow placed on this property.
A plan was in place but the planning was not yet complete.
Enter the CHBA, BID, and Parking Foundation staff members Sharkey, Peggy Miller, Kate O’Neill and Peggy Hendrie. Everyone had a task. The team contacted the Philadelphia Parking Authority. Notice had to be given to prevent parking on the street overnight. As they do for the Spring and Fall festivals, staff members attached signs over meters on Germantown Avenue and Bethlehem Pike.
While they were canvassing the street, business owners and residents were reading emails informing them of the snow removal process.
“Just as we had done during the snow emergencies, we turned to CHCA to help us get the word out to remove cars from the street for the plowing,” Sharkey said. “This is a great example of how collaboration between the CHBA, BID, Parking Foundation, and CHCA works for everyone’s benefit with the Chestnut Hill community.”
All was now in place. At 10 p.m. on Wednesday night, Sharkey and Ray Jones, Cindy Bass’ deputy chief of staff, warmly greeted the Streets Department crews. They helped direct the workers and addressed their questions. Sharkey stayed well past midnight, and when she returned at 6 a.m., parking spots along Germantown Avenue and Bethlehem Pike were finally free of snow.
“Clearing those parking spaces doesn’t just happen,” Shapiro said. “There is significant work and commitment behind the scenes that goes into solving problems and making sure that Chestnut Hill continues to be a great place to live, work and visit. This is just another illustration of great collaboration between the BID, CHBA, CHCA and the City of Philadelphia.”