From the time the stay-at-home order went into effect in March, the Center City District has not missed a beat. Our on-street staff were designated “essential workers.” We staggered shifts to preserve social distance in locker rooms, provided crews with safety equipment and, until retailers started to reopen in June, provided lunch to all on-street crews. They remain hard at work, keeping sidewalks clean and serving as a visible, reassuring safety presence.
We removed graffiti from building facades and street furniture, painted over it and decorated boarded up storefronts with art. We planted street trees and park flowerbeds; installed vibrant and cheerful banners designed by local artists, and increased our graffiti removal cleaning teams. Effective November 1, a new CCD bike patrol and security vans were deployed afternoons and evenings, seven days per week, supplementing the role of the Community Service Representatives. Operating for a full year in 2019, our homeless outreach teams persuaded almost 200 individuals to come off the street and find shelter. Since June of this year, teams have assisted another 100 individuals to come off the street.
Boarded up retail shops decreased from 276 in June to 56 at the end of September. They spiked again in early November but are now down to less than two dozen; 79% of retail and restaurant establishments are now open. In late September, we sponsored a successful Restaurant Week that promoted outdoor dining, takeout options and observance of all safety protocols. With tightened health safety protocols back in place, we are promoting open businesses, encouraging takeout from restaurants and reminding people across the region about the unique shops and boutiques in Center City.
Because well-managed parks and public spaces are more essential than ever, we restored activity to Dilworth Park and cautiously reopened an expanded Children’s Discovery Garden in Sister Cities Park. The park now includes delightful new elements, including a play net, a “hiding” nest, a stream dam and push-button operated water jets. For the winter, a giant climbing log has replaced water in the pond. Mask requirements and health protocols are in place in all our parks – but it is important to underscore that safe outdoor spaces are essential for our families, for mental health and to rebuild confidence in the public environment.
In these challenging times, it takes substantial resources to maintain public spaces and parks to high-quality standards. Assessments from property owners have remained very strong, but if you are able, please contribute; it is more important than ever. Your support enables us to remove more graffiti, plant more street trees, enhance and program our parks, provide more play opportunities for young children and hire more disadvantaged workers. Your contribution supports Philadelphia’s recovery, helps enable businesses to remain open and keep Philadelphians working. Please consider giving today to ensure a strong rebound in 2021.
Paul R. Levy