The Germantown neighborhood is located six miles northwest of downtown Philadelphia. Germantown dates back to 1683 — one of America's most historic neighborhoods. In 1688, four Germantown settlers drafted the earliest known antislavery document made public by whites in North America. One of the largest engagements of the American Revolution, the only in Philadelphia, was fought on the streets of Germantown. It was the temporary home to George Washington and his cabinet in 1793. Critical moments in the story of America's struggle for religious toleration, paths to freedom along the Underground Railroad, and independence spring from Germantown's rich history.
Germantown has experienced many changes over its history. At one time, the neighborhood served as one of the largest shopping districts in Philadelphia. Over many decades of disinvestment, rising unemployment and rates of poverty, more and more vacancies began filling the area's once thriving commercial corridors. Germantown contains many historical and cultural assets, which offers a firm foundation for the revitalization work they've already begun.
Germantown United Community Development Corporation requested a CPAT's help to develop a community-supported vision and recommendations for reinvestment along the W. Chelten Avenue commercial corridor. The CPAT looked at ways to enhance and strengthen the current retail mix, leverage historic resources, envision a more consistent urban design, and promote community-supported uses for vacant or underutilized sites, among other revitalization strategies.
West Chelten Concept Plan
Community Planning Assistance Team Report
Business development is critical. There is a need for programs that train new entrepreneurs and connect them to start-up capital. The report includes multiple suggestions on how to attract new businesses, including a vacancies inventory, opportunities report, and property showcase. Vacancies present opportunities. Pop-up retail stores should be explored.
Site Visit: Team Leader Philip Walker, AICP, and APA project manager Ryan Scherzinger conducted an advance site visit to Germantown on September 16, 2015. They met with Germantown United CDC Executive Director Andrew Trackman, Corridor Manager Emaleigh Doley, and Board President Garlen Capita who provided a tour of the neighborhood, focusing on the area around the intersection of Germantown and Chelten Avenues — one of the busiest transit hubs in the city.
Walker and Scherzinger also attended a Germantown business information session where they met and heard from several business owners as well as Giana Lawrence of the City of Philadelphia's Commerce Department who manages their storefront improvement program. They met with several others throughout the day, including: Trapeta Mayson, executive director of Historic Germantown; Charles Richardson of Germantown Restoration CDC; and two other Germantown United board members.
Team Visit: The full team visited Germantown May 16-20, 2016 to conduct its project. Over 50 community members participated in a public charrette on the evening of May 16. The team worked throughout the week and presented their recommendations and designs on Thursday evening with over 60 in attendance.
Meet the Team
Philip L. Walker, AICP
Phil Walker has over 25 years of experience in community planning. His public sector experience consists of serving as the executive director of the Pensacola (Florida) Downtown Improvement Board and city planning director for Natchez, Mississippi. He spent the past two years serving as the part-time interim director of the Two Rivers Company — Clarksville, Tennessee's downtown and riverfront revitalization entity. His private sector experience includes positions with Hintz-Nelessen Associates, Christopher Chadbourne and Associates, and Looney Ricks Kiss Architects. Since establishing The Walker Collaborative in 2002, he has led award-winning planning projects. Walker has consulted to the National Main Street Center and numerous local Main Street programs, and is a speaker at national and regional conferences. He is also an instructor with the University of North Alabama's continuing education program.
Juan Ayala is a co-founder and managing principal of GRID Design Studios LLC. He has 22 years of experience in leading projects from small towns and resorts to large mixed-use urban development/redevelopment projects. His recent design projects include for a university campus as part of a 1,300-acre city master plan and a concept design of a 10,000-seat sports arena for Fordham University in New York City. He is also assistant professor of practice in urban design for the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy. He teaches urban design skills and the application of graphic communication to the processes involving planning, implementation, urban design, architecture, and visioning. His research interest is an expansion of his professional experience — to discover meaningful ways to achieve design solutions through logic, reasoning, science and technology. Ayala is a registered candidate of the National Council of Architectural Registration Board.
Ricardi Calixte serves as Deputy Director of the Queens Economic Development Corporation, a private non-profit organization providing economic development services in Queens County for over 35 years. He manages business development and commercial revitalization initiatives, primarily focusing on low and moderate income communities. Recent projects include the development and management of a public pedestrian plaza; coordination of a multi-year graffiti removal program; implementation of a retail market analysis and business attraction plan; and successful creation of multiple merchant-based organizations. He has over 10 years of experience working in neighborhood economic development. He has a BA Degree in Economics, MA in African-American Studies, and MRP in Urban Planning from the State University of New York at Albany. He is also a recipient of the Coro Neighborhood Leadership Training Program Certificate.
Nikolas Davis, ASLA
Nikolas Davis has over 10 years of professional design and planning experience specializing in urban design, landscape architecture, site plan development, streetscape design, sustainability planning, graphic design, and visualizations. As a senior associate at Houseal Lavigne Associates he manages much of the firm's versatile studio work where he provides the connection between the planmaking process and document creation using a software tools and drafting techniques. Prior to joining Houseal Lavigne Associates, Davis worked for consulting firms specializing in urban design, landscape architecture, streetscape design, zoning, and development planning. He has a Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture from Purdue University. He is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), and some of his past work has been awarded recognition in both sustainability and environmental stewardship.
Ralph Moore is the executive director of the Memphis Area Association of Governments, a multi-state (Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi) development district responsible for the planning and economic development coordination of six counties and 44 cities. In addition, Moore and his team are responsible for identifying and managing state and federal grants for member cities and counties. Previously he was director of planning in Newnan, Georgia, and owner of the consulting firm, Caram & Associates. He served as mayor of Union City, Georgia, from 1993 to 2014. Moore holds a BA in sociology from Marian College and a Master of City Planning degree from Texas Southern University.