Tacony renovations embrace local history

Res­tor­a­tion: A ce­re­mo­ni­al rib­bon-cut­ting was held at Tor­res­dale Av­en­ue and Dis­ston Street May 27 to cel­eb­rate 15 new store­front facades in Ta­cony. JOHN LOFTUS / TIMES PHOTO

Things have been hap­pen­ing along Tor­res­dale Av­en­ue in Ta­cony.

Four­teen new busi­nesses have opened and 32 jobs have been cre­ated, said Alex Bal­loon, man­ager of the Ta­cony Com­munity De­vel­op­ment Cor­por­a­tion. Graf­fiti has de­clined dra­mat­ic­ally. The Av­en­ue is be­ing cleaned reg­u­larly. Forty trees have been planted, and 70 prop­er­ties have been re­paired.

And, dur­ing the last two years, Bal­loon said, 15 store­front facades have been re­stored.

It was that last ac­com­plish­ment that was cel­eb­rated May 27 with a ce­re­mo­ni­al rib­bon-cut­ting at Tor­res­dale Av­en­ue and Dis­ston Street.

The re­stored stores, which are loc­ated up and down Tor­res­dale Av­en­ue, Bal­loon said, date from 1890 to 1930. A good ex­ample is De­N­ofa’s Deli at 6946 Tor­res­dale, Bal­loon said, a build­ing that dates back to the second dec­ade of the 20th cen­tury. 

Like many of the build­ings on the Av­en­ue, De­N­ofa’s was covered with sid­ing un­til that was re­moved in late 2012. “We un­covered the his­tor­ic ori­gin­al de­tails,” Bal­loon said, “and opened win­dows that were bricked up or covered over.”

Bal­loon said the facade res­tor­a­tion pro­ject was done in a way that “cel­eb­rates the his­tory” of the build­ings.

The work cost from $10,000 to $24,000 per store­front, Bal­loon said, but ad­ded own­ers kicked in about 15 per­cent. Fifty per­cent was paid by the city’s Com­merce De­part­ment as part of its Store­front Im­prove­ment Pro­gram, and 35 per­cent of the costs were paid by the CDC, Bal­loon said. 

“The De­part­ment of Com­merce works every day to sup­port small busi­nesses and to cre­ate strong, well-man­aged com­mer­cial cor­ridors throughout Phil­adelphia,” said Alan Green­ber­ger, deputy may­or for eco­nom­ic de­vel­op­ment. “Across the city, we work with com­munity or­gan­iz­a­tions, such as Ta­cony CDC, to grow busi­nesses, cre­ate jobs and build sus­tain­able neigh­bor­hoods.”

City Coun­cil­man Bobby Hen­on (D-6th dist.) wants to see Ta­cony’s busi­ness cor­ridor grow.

“I made a com­mit­ment to Tor­res­dale Av­en­ue by open­ing my dis­trict of­fice here,” Hen­on said dur­ing last week’s rib­bon-cut­ting. “It’s ex­cit­ing that we can keep grow­ing Tor­res­dale Av­en­ue in­to a true des­tin­a­tion with sim­il­ar com­mit­ment from Ta­cony CDC, the Com­merce De­part­ment and Waste Man­age­ment.”

The Bleigh Av­en­ue-based waste-hauler is giv­ing the Ta­cony CDC $85,000 per year, Bal­loon said.

“We really be­lieve in part­ner­ships,” Bal­loon said. He said the money is paid to the CDC in lieu of taxes to sup­port the or­gan­iz­a­tion’s re­vital­iz­a­tion ef­forts. The city’s tax-cred­it pro­gram al­lows busi­nesses to donate money to com­munity groups that use the dol­lars for eco­nom­ic de­vel­op­ment.

The CDC worked to­ward a big-money pro­ject like the store­front res­tor­a­tions by tak­ing small, meas­ur­able steps first, Bal­loon said. The CDC got in­volved in cleanups and tree-plant­ings.

That’s the way to get things ac­com­plished, he said. “Start with small pro­jects you can get done.” ••

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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