The People Powered Voice for a Better Community
2022 Year in Review
2022 was quite a year for the CCRA Communications Committee.
For starters, it saw the continuation of the evolution of the weekly newsletter to where CCRA This Week is now a go-to platform for all things Center City West and beyond.
Likewise, under the helm of Nancy Colman the Center City Quarterly simply keeps getting better and better.
For the 75th Gala, the Committee produced three short video movies: Where We’ve Been, Where We Are, and Where We’re Going. These were presented to great acclaim at the 75th Gala and are now standalone features resident on the CCRA website.
2022 also saw the beginning of a first-ever Marketing campaign which will utilize social media to target our various demographics. This will start up in earnest in January of 2023.
We currently have 1,007 followers on Facebook, 782 on Twitter and 268 on Instagram.
Personnel-wise, Richard Vaughn is now the Chair of the Communications Committee.
Other members include Nancy Colman, Michele Ettinger, Barbara Halpern, Jen Mansfield, Travis Oliver, Ben Zuckerman and new members Kim Bowers and Margie Wiener.
Post-Covid, the focus of this committee has been to collaborate with other local groups who share our mission. We have concentrated on smaller, Fitler Square-based groups, including the Friends of Fitler Square Park, Fitler Square Neighborhood Association, Markward Playground and, most recently, Trinity Center for Urban Life. A loose collaborative group has been formed, namely Building Friends in Fitler (BFF). We have completed one successful event, the Holiday Caroling from Markward Playground to the Tree Lighting at Fitler Square. Planning ahead, we are having a community potluck supper on Sunday, Jan 15 at Trinity.
The addition of Trinity’s significant indoor space opens vast opportunities for neighborhood events. Organizational capacity is the biggest limiting factor, as the groups are volunteer-based.
This collaboration is a positive development for CCRA, especially as it interfaces with the Communications Committee. One of the main benefits we offer our sister organizations is our weekly e-newsletter, CCRA This Week. Now that social media is the main vehicle for communicating ideas and events, our newsletter can play a critical role in helping each organization and activity reach critical mass for attendance, as our circulation in the neighborhood is 1,800+ readers. Being able to inform our members of relevant local activities helps to increase and retain members. As these events make Center City a better place to live, work and play, we are fulfilling our goal of being the “people-powered voice” of Center City West. Since many of the collaborative activities are social in nature, working with this collaborative gives us the opportunity to offer our members social activities within the neighborhood, without the sole responsibility or organizing them.Lastly, CCRA has a seat on the Friends of June 5th Memorial Park, the pocket park memorial to those who lost their lives in the collapse of a building under demolition onto the Salvation Army building at 22nd and Market. As the group is not large enough to justify its own 501(c)(3), CCRA is currently considering becoming their fiscal sponsor.
It has been our great pleasure to account for and report the revenue resulting from CCRA's successful fundraisers, and the amounts CCRA has spent on new and existing initiatives to improve our community. We watched closely as our balance sheet first grew, and then began shrinking, in line with the Board's commitment to spend the funds we raise in a meaningful way.
The Board approved the engagement of a new independent accounting firm, which reviews our financial statements and assists with internal and external reporting. We obtained a sales tax exemption, which saves CCRA cash on our purchases. We opened a brokerage account, so that donors can contribute securities to support CCRA's work.
Finally, we worked with the Steering Committee of the Schuylkill River Park Community Garden to more effectively track the revenues and expenses relating to the Garden. We continue to look for ways to improve our financial accounting, external reporting and internal controls.
The Green Committee is pleased to report progress with several initiatives designed to improve the physical environment and livability of our neighborhood. These include robust tree planting projects and other water quality efforts.
Tree planting and protection are the most effective tools for combating environmental challenges such as air pollution, combined sewer overflow, and heat island effect. Yet, primarily due to development, our neighborhood’s canopy has declined significantly over the past decade. CCRA Green has responded by partnering with the Zoning Committee and major development taskforces to maximize street tree planting. Our canopy gained ground this year with the cooperation of major developers and small property owners alike.
Historic Preservation Committee
The Preservation Committee has had an active year participating in design review task forces for new construction in Center City, including 2300 Market Street, 2301 Walnut Street, and 21st and Ludlow. The Preservation Committee advocates for proposed development to fit within the Center City context while promoting the establishment of new programs and business markets in our district.
The Historic Preservation Task Force, led by Tim Kerner, has also successfully nominated several buildings along Chestnut Street to the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places. The Preservation Committee is looking forward to continuing to highlight and protect historically significant buildings in our neighborhood next year!
Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
A little over one year ago, CCRA began to explore how our organization might be more inclusive and supportive of city residents of color. This proved challenging, as our neighborhood is not especially diverse. After exploring issues of social justice through discussions with the Philadelphia Ethical Society, it became clear that our most meaningful option was to be more welcoming to students and businesses from outside the neighborhood. Subsequently, we have identified two substantive JEDI (Justice, Equity Diversity, and Inclusion) initiatives for CCRA.
Partnership with Freire Charter High School
CCRA supported the creation of Freire and its growth over the years but is now expanding our partnership to offer ways for the students to partake of the many opportunities afforded by their Center City location, and for CCRA members to get involved with the students. This year, CCRA budgeted $5,000 to sponsor cultural-immersion activities for Freire students, with plans in place for them to attend two local theater productions. Additional outings are being explored. CCRA members are also invited to volunteer at Friere’s after-school tutoring workshops in Math, Science and Writing. These sessions are held Monday through Thursday, 3 – 4:30 pm.
Social Equity Business Loan Fund
CCRA recently partnered with The Enterprise Center Capital (TEC-CC) Corporation to develop a CCRA Social Equity Fund. The Fund will provide low-interest loans and social capital to qualified, under-resourced entrepreneurs who locate in Center City West, resulting in a more equitable, sustainable and vibrant local economy in Center City. With a focus on women- and minority-owned businesses, TEC-CC has a long track record of offering low-interest loans with flexible terms in a wide range of sizes, combined with pre- and post-loan financial advising to ensure that businesses get the best results from each loan.
Under the agreement, TEC-CC and CCRA agree to jointly fundraise. TEC-CC will collect funds and administer the loans, and CCRA will develop an Advisory Group to work with the TEC-CC to identify and vet candidates. CCRA will also provide entrepreneurs with ongoing mentoring.Interested members should contact Maggie Mund or Rick Gross for more information or to get involved. This is a big undertaking and will require treasure, time and commitment from many volunteers.
Well, it has been another banner year for our membership! We are steadily growing and as of this publication we have over 1,400 active members. (Click here to join) Hoping to soon break 1,500!
Were you able to enjoy some of the wonderful membership opportunities this year? Our sold-out fall Meet & Greet at Alimentari restaurant was such fun. It was so nice to chat with old friends as well as new members. In early December we held our free holiday membership promotion, our way of saying "Thank You!" to existing members.
We completed our long anticipated CCRA brochure to help us not be Center City's best-kept secret. Our “Merchant Partner Deals & Discounts” program is flourishing with new Merchant Partners Citi Fitness, 12th St Caterers, Schuylkill Banks River Boat Tours, The Kimmel Center Campus, and The Philadelphia Orchestra!
Look out for some really innovative membership projects in the works now. A social media marketing campaign to educate and engage our community is soon to launch. We will be communicating quarterly with real estate firms in our catchment area so that new residents will have a unique opportunity to join CCRA. In addition, stay tuned for some exciting 40- and under membership opportunities.
Thank you all for being part of the CCRA family and remember, the more members that we have, the greater our voice and influence!
In a major, multi-year project, CCRA is working with the City to improve connections between the 22nd Street bike lane and three bridges across the Schuylkill River. The connection on Chestnut St. is complete. CCRA approved the design for Market St. in 2021, and implementation is expected in the near future. The connection on Walnut St. is in design and may also be implemented soon.
In response to the Philadelphia Parking Authority's plan to begin enforcing parking regulations in the Pine and Spruce bike lanes, the committee has been working with the City and PPA to give displaced motor vehicles a place to go. The plan is to put a multi-car loading zone in the parking lane at the beginning of each block. On October 21 the committee walked the routes with representatives from the PPA, the Streets Department, and the Office of Transportation, Infrastructure and Sustainability (OTIS), refining the design to respect the idiosyncrasies of each block. Implementation is expected in 2023.
For some years, the committee has been working with the South of South Neighborhood Association (SOSNA) on ways to improve traffic flow in what is called the Triangles area, which runs between South Street and Bainbridge on 23rd. (One landmark is the Amazon hub.) A key element of the plan is the reversal of traffic flow on 24th street between Bainbridge and Lombard. Currently traffic on 24th is southbound, and this would change to northbound, up to Lombard, a change that will help drivers coming up from further south to get on the South Street bridge. (Currently they need to go east on Bainbridge, then north on 22nd, and then west on Lombard.) North of Lombard, traffic would continue to flow southbound.
A community meeting for neighbors who live on the South-Lombard section of 24th, or nearby, is scheduled for December 15. Representatives from the Streets Department, SOSNA, and CCRA will attend, with Streets outlining the plan and reviewing the results of its traffic studies in the area.
The 9th Police District, which covers the CCRA area, has a Police District Advisory Council (PDAC) that is comprised of resident association representatives and 9th District officials, including Captain Chris Bradshaw and Community Relations Officer Jesse O’Shea. The monthly PDAC meetings provide an important venue for resident associations to ask questions, share concerns, learn about important law related incidents and topics, and influence areas important to Center City residents. Updates on robberies and violent crimes are given. The importance of a vibrant Center City, the second most populated downtown in the country after NYC, and its commercial and residential tax base, is well understood by the police.
Several tactical strategies have been implemented in the 9th over the past several months to increase public safety. There are increased patrols, including undercover police. In Christmas Village there are fewer issues than last year, when overnight crimes were a particular concern. An overnight beat around Rittenhouse Square has also helped to focus police presence. There is a dedicated police officer at the Giant grocery store. The tactics appear to be making an impact, with recent crime reports showing an 8% decline in property crime in the 9th District. Motorcycle scrums and illegal ATV riders remain a primary concern, as do bikes and scooters on sidewalks. Police have once again been clearing out homeless encampment tents, etc. at the PATCO station on Locust St. 15th.
CCRA is a generous contributor to the 9th District PDAC fund that supports activities such as Officer of the Month and community outreach social activities including youth mentoring activities.
The Zoning Committee had a successful and productive year in 2022. We heard 30 cases in 11 meetings, and satisfactorily addressed all resident, developer, and other questions received outside of Zoning Committee meetings. In May, we established a new Co-Chair (Rebecca Frisch) and 14 members. For the first time, this includes one adjunct or non-voting member who is a high school student. We began collaborating with the Green Initiative, and we have set up an ad hoc committee to address short-term rentals in 2023. We are poised to have an equally successful and productive year in 2023.