A million bucks to plan the perfect neighborhood? Germantown’s new community-driven project starts now.
Good development feels organic, but depends on careful planning. You need committed neighbors and strong community organizations — but even then, it’s a tricky balancing act of enlightened self-interest and diplomacy. And the process goes sooooo slowwwwly…. Meetings lead to more meetings. Committees spin off into subcommittees…
But when done well, neighborhood-level planning can be a beautiful thing! It can unify residents, direct development, attract investment, boost morale. “Community planning is the antidote to gentrification,” touts a recent article in the Detroit Free Press. Detroit’s resurgence from generations of Rustbelt decline has attracted national news. Looking around at all the abandoned mills in Germantown, parallels feel obvious.
As Wayne Junction development kicked into high gear last year, Germantown United CDC assembled a team of other Gtown non-profits to apply for a million dollar planning grant from the Wells Fargo Regional Foundation:
- Tabor Services
- DePaul USA
- Faith Community Development Corporation
- La Salle University
- Urban Resources Development Corporation
- Center in the Park
- Germantown Special Services District
Success! — sort of. Wells Fargo has awarded a “pre-planning grant” (not the million dollars, yet) to help Gtown residents target challenges and resources to create a comprehensive neighborhood plan that identifies areas for improvement and development, and creates a framework for addressing issues and finding democratic solutions.
Step One of this first stage of “pre-planning” was to form a steering committee of representatives from each organization along with neighbors and business owners. Together they hired Lamar Wilson Associates as project consultant, and Lamar led the first public meeting Monday December 10th at the Pennsylvania School of the Deaf.
First things first: there was pizza! All different kinds, free for the taking. I guess one good thing about a Wells Fargo Planning Grant is they will feed the hell outta everyone who participates! Which we totally appreciate, even though the Germantown Hub meeting last weekend had pizza AND COOKIES TOO.
Pepperidge Farm, no less. Not that this is a competition but, you know. Can’t hurt to point out where the bar is set… #kiddingnotkidding
Anyway, this first meeting was basically to introduce this planning project and provide neighbors an overview of the process ahead. Lamar’s slide-show presentation stressed right off the bat that Germantown’s been through a slew of planning projects in the recent past: 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014, 2016, 2018… Some years, there were even multiple plans! So why’s this one different?
Because this one’ll benefit from all the studies we’ve already done, of course. Lamar kind of explained, I guess (video):
The objective at this point in the process is to recognize – pull out those things: recommendations, highlights – use those to inform this planning process. So we can come up, this is what Wells is funding Germantown United CDC to do: working with, again, sponsor organizations and the steering committee is to make sure the next plan that brings all these together and looks at other conditions and other issues and opportunities that is resident-driven principally.
Umm, ok, soooo… the difference is that this planning process involves residents? But didn’t the Upper NW Plan – adopted this October — include residents, as well?
Ah but that plan overreaches several different neighborhoods. This plan will be specific to Germantown!
A planning rep led the audience thru census information that helped the steering committee identify key areas for localized planning to address. “It’s important for community work to reinforce the NW District Plan and help make it more specific to your own neighborhood,” she told the audience (video), outlining nine different (but overlapping) focus points for Germantown:
- Human services
- Economic development
- Community relations
- Crime and Safety
These categories provide a starting point to begin discussions about how neighbors would like to move forward as a developing community. Lamar led the audience through slides for each item, highlighting goals, needs, challenges… Folks chimed in, but the meeting’s main “action step” was to organize neighbors into targeted committees based on resources and interest.
GTOWNERS, GET IN HERE! To sign up for a committee (or volunteer services), contact the Planning Steering Committee through Germantown United: 215-856-4303 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Next meeting’ll be in January, make sure you get on the announcement list. As Germantown faces a new wave of development, it’s crucial to have one plan that supports local business and upholds the community’s values. The more neighbors can share this planning process, the better Germantown can grow to fulfill its potential.
And also: there’s pizza.
Germantown United Community Development Corp.
Since 2012, this local non-profit has worked to revitalize Germantown and its business corridors thru a creative, community-driven approach to economic development.
5320 Germantown Avenue (at the corner of West Penn)
VIEW THE MEETING’S SLIDESHOW PRESENTATION HERE: