Ken Weinstein, owner of Philly Office Retail development company and co-founder of the Mt. Airy Business District, is teaming up with Morris Arboretum to turn Mt. Airy’s two-mile business …
Ken Weinstein, owner of Philly Office Retail development company and co-founder of the Mt. Airy Business District, is teaming up with Morris Arboretum to turn Mt. Airy’s two-mile business corridor on Germantown Avenue into a leafy thoroughfare.
“Sixty-five new trees will be planted along the Avenue, from Cresheim Valley Drive to Washington Lane,” said Weinstein. “Thanks to the recommendations of Morris Arboretum, we already removed trees that were dying and pruned others. Planting could happen as early as next Spring, if we get funding.”
The project started two years ago, when BID Executive Director Janis Risch asked the arboretum to help them think about how to maintain the business district’s tree canopy. She got a report that not only described what trees work best and how to care for them, but also underscored the value they bring.
“Numerous scientific studies have been conducted that prove planting street trees and properly caring for them improves retail business,” the arboretum report stated. “New trees are an infrastructure investment….(which) increases in value and benefits as they age.”
That made sense to Risch.
“One of the reasons people live in Mt. Airy is because of how green it is,” said Risch, “This is true for the commercial corridor as well.”
This is not BID’s first project to upgrade the district. The organization has been cleaning the streets regularly for the past 14 years. And the results are obvious to anyone who lives or shops in Mt. Airy.
Weinstein, who currently chairs the BID, said he thinks the cleaner streets have helped spur new business along the avenue. Vacant storefronts and deterioration have been replaced by luxury apartment buildings, a new supermarket, and trendy cafes and shops. Some of the newest retail tenants on Germantown Avenue include Zsa’s Ice Cream, near E. Springer St; Frosted Fox CakeShop,near W. Weaver St.; and Grocery Outlet at Hortter and Germantown.
Taking a page out of the Chestnut Hill Garden District’s transformation of its stretch of Germantown Avenue, the Mt. Airy BID next hung attractive flowering baskets along the corridor. Then, starting three years ago, it initiated an even more ambitious program, creating six “pocket parks” along the Avenue.
Their first was Trolley Car Park, 6739 across the street from Malelani Cafe, a space formerly used as a SEPTA depot. “SEPTA let us transform their property - it was just concrete and a bench. We expanded it, adding a garden and several benches to create a community gathering spot,” said Weinstein.
Next came Pelham Pocket Park, adjacent to Malelani Cafe; Freedom Park, between W. Pomona and Washington Ln,; Carpenter Park, near Carpenter Ln.; and Sedgewick Park on the northeast corner of Sedgwick and Germantown. The newest pocket park is Friendship Park, next to Mt. Airy Presbyterian Church at Mt. Pleasant Ave.
George Drakopoulos, owner of Malelani Cafe, loves the pocket park next to his eatery. “It’s definitely brought a lot of color and life to the block, as well as more attraction to my restaurant,” he said. “Trolley Car Park across the street is also wonderful.”
Mt. Airy artist Gloria Rohfls shares Drakopoulos’s enthusiasm. “I love the pocket parks,” she said. “They give us a chance to take a break, relax and appreciate nature.”
Many local companies partnered with the BID to create these parks, each of which contains a “Little Free Library,” designed by Bird Studio, a design, fabrication and restoration provider. Philadelphia Salvage, a fabricator of custom furniture, built the benches at Sedgwick Park. Park signage was designed by Brad Maule, freelance photographer and writer; and David Brothers Landscape Designer generously provided the maintenance of the parks pro bono as a service to the community.
The importance of parks to public health echoes William Penn’s original mission to include small neighborhood squares in each of the quadrants surrounding City Hall. The Philadelphia City Planning Commission, in its most recent Comprehensive Plan, Philadelphia 2035, set a bold vision that all residents will live within a 10-minute walk of a neighborhood park or recreation area. The Mt. Airy BID is not alone in sharing that goal.
“Trees make people happier, reduce heat in neighborhoods, and create fresh air for us to breathe,” said PA State Senator Art Haywood. Parks provide a place for neighbors to socialize with one another. These spaces offer a break from social isolation caused by the pandemic.”
If you would like to be supportive of efforts to add trees and pocket parks to Mt. Airy’s Business District, contact the BID at 215-844-6492 or email@example.com