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We were busy in 2021! See how…

The NLBID does a lot more than just clean the streets. To meet our mission to create a safe and vibrant place to work, live, and visit also engage in capital improvements, economic development, marketing, and events. Below is a summary of our activities for the twelve months concluding December 31, 2021.

Our focus for the first quarter of 2021 was building our brand through earned media that brought new consumers to our district and through a print campaign directed at new Northern Liberties residents that encouraged the support of local businesses. By keeping the Northern Liberties name in the news, we attracted six new businesses to the corridor in 2021, creating approximately 100 full and part time positions in health care, hospitality, and retail.

To foster a pool of potential leasees, we developed the Retail Ready Bootcamp with Community College of Philadelphia as part of their Power Up Your Business initiative. This free twelve-week program bridged the gap between “kitchen table” enterprise and a brick and mortar for twelve up-start businesses seeking to sign their first lease, grow their operations, and hire staff. Through a generous sponsor, we continue to offer a $1,500 “rent scholarship” to the first graduate of the program to sign a lease in our business district.

In the second quarter of 2021, we hosted our first ever Restaurant Week. Sixteen participating restaurants reported a very positive impact at a time when they were still struggling to recover from the impacts of COVID restrictions. This program supported approximately three hundred service industry employees.  We also organized a neighborhood-wide clean up in conjunction with Philly Spring Clean and shredded 5,000 lbs of sensitive documents.

As numerous construction projects began to take shape that will potentially double our population in three years – we convened meetings with the Philadelphia Planning Commission and the Delaware Valley Planning Commission to raise concerns over infrastructure and advocate for upgrades. For our part, we completed a plan to revise parking regulations to improve vehicle turnover on unregulated blocks and open up overnight parking to residents on blocks that are underutilized after 6pm.

We also renewed our monthly event series in the spring. This included Artists at Work, a socially distanced stroll that pairs live artist activations with businesses, and bi-monthly pop ups that paired makers and artisans with vacant spaces. The latter was successful enough that we had to discontinue it due to a lack of vacant spaces.

In the third quarter, we upgraded our cleaning program by shifting from temporary workers to hiring two full time staffers with full benefits through our new contractor StreetPlus. We continued 2nd Saturdays and closed down 2nd Street for a day for a Health and Wellness Fair. This was a collaborative effort with our gyms, yoga studios, and health-oriented businesses to re-introduce them to residents, particularly as many people moved into the neighborhood during the pandemic and were not familiar with area offerings. This supported approximately one hundred existing jobs in an industry hard hit by COVID shutdowns. We also assisted a Chinese-owned restauranter in successfully navigating L&I and getting approval for their street-facing signage and participated in the Hospitality Working Group to help inform potential streetery and café seating legislation.

One of our most exciting accomplishments of the year was in June when we gathered nearly 100 volunteers to install a crosswalk mural at two locations that had not had striping in years. We also concluded a months-long process of crafting a Streetscape Vision Plan that will guide our capital projects for the next decade

The fourth quarter was marked by a full slate of events. Our second annual Bloody Mary Challenge, much like Restaurant Week, garnered significant press coverage and brought new audiences into our still-struggling restaurants. We resurrected a popular dog costume contest, Hound-O-Ween, that brought hundreds of people to the neighborhood for the day. For the winter holidays, we engaged students from Community College of Philadelphia and Drexel to decorate the storefronts of six businesses with fewer than five employees. In December we hosted our third annual pop-up vendor market indoors, featuring forty vendors over two weekends.  Local dignitaries and dozens of neighbors came out for our first large-scale tree lighting. In all, we saw more than 220 media hits this year.

This fall, As development plans for Spring Garden Street took shape, the NLBID assembled a working group that includes representatives from the City, the private development teams, The Pennsylvania Environmental Council, and the East Coast Greenway to kick off a section of the Spring Garden Greenway by taking advantage of the investment dollars lined up for this area. We worked with Indego Bike Share to relocate a bike dock to a location that better serves residents, visitors, and businesses. We devised a plan with the Philadelphia Water Department to improve traffic conditions caused by their ongoing sewer main project.

We look forward to serving our commercial property owners and businesses in 2022 and which everyone a safe and happy new year.

-Kristine Kennedy, executive director