PHILADELPHIA – Two key landmarks in Central Germantown are looking bright and fresh these days.
Last month contractors finished improvements at the plaza at Chelten Avenue and Greene Street. Those upgrades join a refurbished Maplewood Mall to create new walking, shopping, and transit experiences for residents and visitors.
“Central Germantown, with Vernon Park, the businesses on Maplewood Mall and Chelten Avenue, and great transit connections, has everything it needs to be a thriving, vibrant community,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “These upgrades will make it easier to use the park, to take the bus, and to shop local businesses. These projects are an investment in Germantown’s future.”
Both the plaza and the mall were more than 30 years old. The roots of the trees on the mall were pushing up brick pathways and creating a safety hazard. The plaza did not connect pedestrians to Vernon Park and did not provide easy access to people with disabilities.
The recent improvements addressed those problems. On the mall, the project replaced the water main and built a brick roadway with loading zones. It added trees, bike racks, seating, landscaping, and trash cans. Public art is on the way.
At the northeastern corner of Chelten and Greene, the plaza offers new gateways to Vernon Park and the Chelten Avenue business district. It is now ADA-compliant. New bus shelters provide protection from the weather for transit riders.
“Improving the mall and the plaza are two key steps to revitalizing Central Germantown,” said Emaleigh Doley, executive director of Germantown United CDC. “The intention of these spaces is to serve existing residents, business owners, and workers. These projects address the need for safe and welcoming outdoor spaces for all.”
A local stakeholder group that included businesses, property owners, park stewards, and elected officials played a key role in developing the improvements. City agencies held many meetings with stakeholders and the public to discuss project goals, design, and construction logistics. Those meetings included a design workshop, on-site meetings, and public meetings. The City’s Planning Commission, Streets Department, Commerce Department, Water Department, and Department of Parks and Recreation all participated.
“This truly was a locally driven project,” said Councilmember Cindy Bass. “We asked residents and businesses what they wanted, and the improvements reflect their input.”
At present the mall’s roadway is open to cars. In October and November 2020 several weekends were designated as pedestrian-only as a pilot project. In the spring the City and the businesses on the mall will revisit the issue of limiting the mall to pedestrians at certain times.
“Business owners are excited about the mall’s new look,” said Erica Johnson, the owner of Collective Artistry, a new business on the mall. “I’m looking forward to the mall becoming an active gathering place for the community.”
Maplewood Mall cost approximately $3.3 million. Funding came from the portion of the City’s Capital Budget that is dedicated to neighborhood commercial corridors.
The plaza project cost approximately $730,000. Of that, $375,000 came from a state Transportation Alternatives Set-Aside grant and the balance of the funding came from the portion of the City’s Capital Budget that is dedicated to neighborhood commercial corridors.
New art is also coming to the mall. The City’s Percent for Art program issued a request for qualifications in October for a public art project. Once the City has created a short list of artists and their concepts a survey will seek community input. The City expects to release the survey in March.