2023 Year in Review
Communications Remains a Two-Way Street
2023 was yet again quite a year for the CCRA Communications Committee.
For starters, it saw the continuation of the evolution of the weekly newsletter to where CCRA This Week is now a go-to platform for all things Center City West and beyond.
Additionally, we now publish the bi-weekly Events & Happenings, your guide to all the fun and fascinating things to do in our remarkable neighborhood.
And as always, under the steady and wise helm of Nancy Colman the Center City Quarterly simply keeps getting better and better.
2023 also saw the first-ever Marketing campaign where we utilize social media to target our various demographics. This has generated a surprisingly high volume of traffic.
We currently have 1144 followers on Facebook, 789 on Twitter (X), and 465 on Instagram. In addition, we a slowly building a following on our YouTube channel. Personnel-wise, the talented Marc Werlinsky I now writing for CCRA This Week.
Richard Vaughn, Executive Vice President and Chair
CCRA’s Community Engagement activities focused on collaborative efforts with various neighborhood groups and organizations. Here's a summary of the key activities and achievements in 2023:
Collaboration with Local Groups:
•CCRA continued to work closely with neighborhood groups and organizations within its catchment area, fostering partnerships to enhance the quality of life in Center City West.
•Emphasis was placed on supporting "place-based" groups, such as Friends of Fitler Square Park, Friends of Rittenhouse Square, Schuylkill River Community Development Corporation, Avenue of the Arts, and Rittenhouse Row.
Partnerships for Impact:
•Collaborative efforts with FSNA (Fitler Square Neighborhood Association) and SOSNA (South of South Street Neighborhood Association) were strengthened to address common concerns, including traffic, waste management, and bike lanes.
•Alignment with Trinity at 22nd Street and Markward Recreation Center allowed CCRA to actively participate in and support various neighborhood events hosted by the organizations.
Financial and Logistical Support:
•CCRA provided financial support for community initiatives, such as funding concerts in Fitler Square and supplying basketball nets for Schuylkill River Park.
•CCRA This Week provided publicity assistance for local events organized by different groups and provided logistical support based on specific requests.
Involvement in Building Friends in Fitler (BFF):
•CCRA became a partner in creating Building Friends in Fitler (BFF), a collaborative effort with other neighborhood groups.
•BFF organized a range of community activities, including potlucks, movie nights, Christmas caroling, and local interest groups like a Knitting Circle, Tai Chi, and a Friday Walking Group, all hosted at Markward Recreation Center.
Community Diversity and Resilience:
•CCRA’s goals focused on creating and supporting a diverse and active street presence in our neighborhood, preserving its uniqueness as one of our city’s best places to safely live, work, and play.
Barbara Halpern, Vice President and Chair
The Development Committee is responsible for fund-raise, friend-raise, build membership, and most importantly, have fun.
Casino Night Feb 2023
Successful, Fun, Friendly
Had some issues with Insurance rider.
12th St catering was wonderful as always.
Entertainment was exciting.
Venue was very nice.
CCRA Family Fun Day at The Kimmel Center April 14th, 2024
friend-raiser, free to our membership
committee in place
Jose Garces-catered box lunch
$5 discount tickets for all 3 shows that day still waiting on confirmation from Geoff @Kimmel
Yannik @ Blatstein Mansion with AVA Date TBA
$2,500 ticket; split proceeds with Kimmel Center and Academy of Vocal Arts
Bart is flexible on date and will pay for the catering
Rick has a few tickets sold already
61st Annual House & Garden Tour June 2, 2024
had our first committee meeting, was successful
have 5 tour stops secure looking for 5 more
We received sponsorship commitments from the following:
Deborah Solo $2,5000
Goodman Properties $25k
Breakthrough Properties $25K W-9 out, being paid in increments 2024,2025,2026
Other targets of $40,000 are in progress
Target of $17,500 already exceeded.
Expect $20,000 total.
send out email to realtor community quarterly regarding membership and giving new residents in our zone a CCRA membership as a gift.
I have an updated list of over 5,000 realtors in PA.
Real Time Real Estate
Bi-monthly article on what’s new in the neighborhood, what’s trending, insurance, staging, curb appeal, values, what you can buy under $300k, sales per sq ft etc.
First article comes out in January.
Kate Federico, Chair
CCRA's board decides how to spend funds to accomplish its mission and how to raise these funds. The Finance Committee keeps on eye on the dollars and cents of it all.
To this end the committee spent another year accounting and reporting on CCRA's revenues and expenses, assets and liabilities, and fund balances. We also produced annual budgets and mid-year reforecasts, and oversaw the independent review of our financial statements and the preparation of tax and other government filings. After a couple of years of significant changes in how we do these things, our processes seem to have settled into a nice routine.
We look forward to continuing to play our part in helping CCRA address its opportunities and challenges.
Rick Speizman. Treasurer and Chair
The Historic Preservation committee has been busy planning and working on the new Chestnut Street
Historic District. The committee met last Spring to survey Chestnut Street and select the blocks which
will comprise the beginning of the district, and which we plan to expand in the coming years. The
historic buildings along Chestnut tell a vibrant story about the street’s transition from residential to
commercial over the centuries. Our goal is to preserve this history and the architectural gems that line
this street as development in Center City increases. Next time you are walking down Chestnut Street,
Irena Wight and J.M.Duffin, Co-Chairs
The Green Committee successfully carried out a number of initiatives this year:
Schuylkill River Park efforts – CCRA Green supported the Schuylkill River Park Arboretum by organizing the planting of nine trees in the park. In addition, we facilitated the planting of an extensive native pollinator garden in the park on the fall Love Your Park Day. The garden was the result of a collaboration between our committee and The Philadelphia School’s Green and Healthy committee which designed the space, sourced the plants, and oversaw the planting. One significant challenge was ensuring that the new plants received sufficient water in the weeks following planting. An extension to the park’s irrigation system will meet the future needs of the new garden, but, because the City turned off the water supply, it could not be used immediately after planting. Thus, water had to be carried from a nearby home in a very labor-intensive process.
Riparian planting – Last spring CCRA Green partnered with Penn State Extension Service and Schuylkill River Development Corporation to plant 60 shrubs and trees along the riverbank adjacent to Center City. The plants were chosen for their ability to support native habitat and improve water quality. Several dedicated caretakers kept the plants watered and weeded through exceptionally dry spells. Sadly, many of the plants were destroyed over the summer by Schuylkill Banks landscapers. To protect the remaining plants, bi-lingual signage has been developed to identify plants that should not be mowed or weed-whacked.
Street tree plantings –CCRA Green PHS Tree Tenders added 39 trees to our neighborhood canopy in the spring and fall street tree planting events. Volunteer caretakers adopted several of them and kept them thriving through the hot summer. Global Shapers, a group of under-30 volunteers provided invaluable help on planting days. We are in the process of developing ways to more broadly involve the group in our work.
E-recycling and shredding event –In November, CCRA Green partnered with Rep. Ben Waxman and the Greenfield School to host a shredding and e-recycling event that was open to the entire Center City West community. The word got out through the CCRA e-newsletter and social media, robo-calls, community bulletin boards and word of mouth, resulting in a tremendous turnout! Folks gathered accumulated sensitive documents and correspondence and brought them for shredding, along with specific electronics and equipment that were all then disposed of in a responsible and sustainable way. A representative from TerraCycle was also on hand to answer questions and provide information on additional recycling programs available. A repeat event is planned for next fall.
Stormdrain marking –CCRA Green partnered with the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary to mark storm drains in our neighborhood. Volunteers accepted nine kits,each with 15 markers, to post near storm drains. Volunteers were recruited via the CCRA e-newsletter and from a list of previous participants, but additional volunteers were needed. Moreover, the hot and wet weather posed a challenge, because the markers can only be adhered in dry, moderate weather. Next year we will work to develop better outreach for volunteers.
Next year the Green Committee plans to continue these initiatives while seeking new ones. We also welcome new committee members who would actively contribute their time and energy to carry out our mission of protecting and enhancing our neighborhood’s natural environment.
Susan Kahn, Chair, Green Committee
The membership of CCRA is the heart and soul of our organization. Because of you, we have strength in numbers which helps CCRA effect change. Please let your friends and neighbors know about us as we look to pass the 1500 mark! (join here).
We had a very active year with a focus on attracting younger members to the organization. In the spring we hosted two under-40 focus groups led by a CCRA member and professional facilitator. They were very successful as we learned what this demographic would like to see happen in the city and how they can best use their volunteer time. The Young Friends of CCRA was soon born.
Subsequently, we received a generous grant from Representative Ben Waxman’s office to attract young people for ‘give back’ opportunities in the city. The Open Hearts Cafe at the Church of the Holy Trinity is where our younger population first chose to volunteer. They sponsored and managed a clean-your-closet drive, then worked and helped sort out the Cafe’s clothes closet. (read the CCQ here)
Next, this group volunteered and sponsored the planting of the first native pollinator garden in our area. It’s right next to the Markward playground and is such a beautiful addition.
Last, The Young Friends of CCRA and the Young Friends of Rittenhouse sponsored a food drive for Philabundance during the recent holidays. They volunteered to collect and manage the donated canned food items and help distribute giveaways during the Christmas tree and the Menorah lighting in the park.
We had a lovely Meet & Greet in October at our new Merchant Partner restaurant Osteria Ama. It was such a nice evening! Speaking of Merchant Partners, the program is flourishing and we have added many small businesses offering deals & discounts to CCRA members. Please thank them when you visit! (Center City Residents' Association - Merchant Partners Deals and Discounts)
You may have seen us too at the Rittenhouse Farmers Market, schmoozing with the crowds so that we could spread the good works of this organization. We are currently creating a CCRA Speakers Bureau complete with a tool kit and power point for our Board and membership committee to use. Please think of us when you are looking for speakers at your various affinity groups, social clubs, high rise buildings, businesses, organizations etc. to keep you informed about the ‘State of the Neighborhood’.
Last, we continue our successful stewardship program welcoming new members and reaching out to lapsed ones.
Wishing everyone a wonderful holiday season!
Michele Ettinger, Membership Chair
While the Streets Committee's mission is to help our streets become safe, useful, and pleasant for everyone, in 2023, progress on major issues was slow to nonexistent.
After considerable delays, the two-way cycle track on Market Street between 20th and 23rd has opened and is receiving substantial use, which is not surprising because it is a key link in the developing bike lane network in this area. As one example, a cyclist can now get on the 22nd Street bike lane in Point Breeze and ride on decent, connected bike lanes to City Hall.
Installation of the loading zones on Pine and Spruce continues to be delayed. I've been told Streets and the Philadelphia Parking Authority are squabbling over who pays for what, and also that the purchasing department can't figure out where to buy the poles for the signs.
The South of South Neighborhood Association is working on a project to significantly upgrade the Triangles area at 23rd and South. (For more, click here.) Integral to the plan is reversing the traffic flow on 24th Street between Bainbridge and Lombard. Motor vehicles there would travel north rather than south. This proposal has encountered opposition from a small group of individuals who live in the area north of South Street. The behavior of the opposition has been marked by a general refusal to engage in meaningful dialogue and by the aggressive transmission of misinformation to neighbors. Emotions have at times run quite high among all parties. Recently a leader of the opposition gave an interview to Fitler Focus only after being promised anonymity.
The City needs to decide whether a southbound bicycle lane should be placed on 21st or 23rd Streets, as a mate for the northbound lane on 22nd. This has been an open issue for years.
Harvey Ostroff continues his stalwart efforts to improve the trash situation in the area centering on Walnut Street west of Rittenhouse Square. I wish we could find a way to expand Harvey's system to other parts of CCRAville.
The committee has attempted, without success, to get the City to paint crosswalks, especially in school areas. Restriping streets after they are repaved is supposed to happen relatively quickly. It is a significant safety issue. (Also, the striping lasts longer if it is put down on fresh asphalt.) The backlogs at this point are enormous, and there is no sign of improvement.
Philly Bike Action is seeking to have the weekend parking for churches and synagogues moved from the Pine-Spruce bike lanes to other nearby locations. CCRA is not currently involved in this project and is simply observing.
Transit Forward Philadelphia and 5th Square were instrumental in the October 26 passage of Council Member Mark Squilla's bill authorizing camera-assisted enforcement of parking violations in SEPTA transit stops and lanes. This new enforcement tool should help to alleviate the city's chronic traffic congestion.
Bill West, Chair
The zoning committee had a very successful year again and is looking forward to an equally successful 2024. The committee added several new members and was pleased to welcome several women onto the committee. We continue to seek diversity in our ranks.
The committee held 11 public meetings, heard all requested cases, passed a policy on Airbnb variance requests, and held a highly successful PD/Social event. In future, we are looking forward to a second PD/Social event in January. We are pleased to report that each public meeting went smoothly and professionally.
Challenges relate predominantly to this being of volunteer position, held by two very busy co-chairs. Our recommendations for the future include PD./Social events, and continued education.
It is our pleasure to serve, and we thank the CCRA board for its support.