Clean streets mean better business

by Walt Maguire
Posted 6/11/21

With indoor dining restrictions lifting and summer crowds returning, this is the time of year when the Chestnut Hill Business District puts everything in place for the rest of the year.

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Clean streets mean better business


One of the responsibilities of a business improvement district is to maintain an attractive commercial corridor. This extends from emptying the corner bins and cleaning the sidewalks to planting and caring for thousands of plants in Chestnut Hill.

With indoor dining restrictions lifting and summer crowds returning, this is the time of year when the Chestnut Hill Business District puts everything in place for the rest of the year.

Presently, there is a part-time crew of two: Eugene Hatcher and Jonathan Dargan. They empty the corner trash bins, pick up pavement trash, clear weeds from the cracks, clear the sidewalks with leaf blowers and water the plants along the avenue. They arrive early in the morning and finish before most shoppers and diners arrive. At times they also staff the festivals and promotions. 

“Both are hard workers, nice men and have a good sense of humor,” said Kate O’Neill, Director of Operations for the CHBD. “During lockdown they were our eyes and ears for the Avenue.”

The CHBD provides $150,000 in funding a year, with additional funds from the Chestnut Hill Garden District Fund to assist with landscaping: Planting and maintaining window boxes, the lamppost baskets, the small parks, and even parking lot landscaping.

By May 20, the Garden District had planted everything for this year, with assistance from an army of volunteers.

“It's quite an undertaking and engages a hundred ardent volunteers but is done so quietly that no one sees the work, only the effect,” said O’Neill.

Emily Daeschler, president of the Chestnut Hill Garden District, said there are more than 50 plant types and more than 3,000 plants in Chestnut Hill’s pocket parks, landscaping around the parking lots, in the 42 hanging baskets, 36 window boxes, and more than 90 barrels and pots along the avenue. The CHBD pays Gardening Manager Judd Friedman to water and maintain it all through the fall.

“I'm struck by the fact that so many invisible people contribute to the beauty of Germantown Avenue and take pride in it,” O’Neill said.

The Garden District has been doing this since 2000, with an annual budget for this landscaping around $50,000.

“We have a really amazing board,” said Daeschler. Soon the group will add lighting to Cliff Park, where the new Welcome sign is located at Germantown Avenue and Cresheim Valley Road.

“We get calls from other areas of the city about this. It’s a positive example of what a commercial corridor can do,” said Philip Dawson, executive director of the CHBD.

The Chestnut Hill Business District runs roughly a mile along Germantown Avenue through Chestnut Hill, from Cliff Park at Cresheim Valley Road to Chestnut Hill Avenue at the top of the Hill. Including two miles for Mt. Airy and the next mile into Germantown, there are three Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) that keep the Avenue clean. Though they operate independently, their missions and standards are similar.

The Mt. Airy BID, like the CHBD, employs two part-time cleaners, plus their landscape specialist Cookie Bundy. There are six pocket parks, each with a Little Library.

Germantown United CDC takes over at Washington Lane, with a crew of three. Funding for Germantown improvements has been more recent, and the GUCDC is still working to bring the commercial corridor to their target level. The city recently added new landscaping at the Chelten Bus corner and Maplewood Mall, and they hope to hire a part-time landscaper soon to manage the yearly gardening. 

Find the Garden District Fund on Instagram at @chestnuthillgdf