2019 Year in Review
Thank you to all GCCA Members for your incredible support in 2019! We accomplished so much and look forward to doing even more in 2020 to support our vibrant community!
In early 2019, the updated GCCA business directory was completed and 8,000 copies were printed. In the spring, the committee distributed copies of the directory to all the businesses on the corridor. The committee also hired a service to hand deliver, door-to-door, a copy of the directory to all the households within a half-mile radius of 48th & Spruce Streets. The directory has also been distributed at neighborhood events.
In support of the 2019 GCCA Progressive Dinner, several corridor businesses stepped forward to support the fundraising event with monetary or in-kind or reduced cost contributions to help make the event a success.
For the 7th year, we facilitated a year-long tutoring program in reading at the Henry C. Lea public school. Seventeen of our volunteers were weekly reading partners of a first or second grade student who wasn’t yet at grade level. The one-on-one relationship was individualized and responsive to each student’s needs and interests. At year’s end, we gave our students packets of new books so they would maintain their gains over the summer.
We supported our tutors by providing an introduction to guided reading, additional presentations in visual literacy and a walk-through review of Lea’s library collection. We held three meet-ups so tutors could discuss tutoring techniques among themselves. In May, we hosted an appreciation dinner for our volunteers.
In April, we held the 15th annual Book Choosing for Lea’s first-graders. We had students select among a slew of new and terrific books. Each child read with one of a dozen volunteers, stamped the title page with the fun-to-use GCCA bookplate, filled in the line that says NAME, and took the book home.
We maintained three neighborhood Book Nooks that were frequently re-stocked with well-curated selections. Our bookcases are located at the Laundromat of Pine Street, Hair Show Barber Shop, and Hair Vyce Studio. Bolstered by an occasional donation of used books, the majority of materials were purchased new by the Education Committee.
As administrator of the Cheryl Roebuck Memorial Music Scholarships, the Education Committee awarded a grant of $1,000 to neighborhood resident Aviva Bock, a Central High School student who has played violin in several local orchestras. The award supported Ms. Bock’s attendance at the summer program of the Kinhaven Music School.
The Greening committee had a table at the Dollar Stroll in June handing out flyers with information about the City's free street tree program, coordinated by UC Green. We handed out dozens of flyers to interested neighbors. In the fall the committee piloted a project to help neighbors get older, more mature trees planted in their yard. Volunteers rented a truck, picked up a large Linden tree from a commercial nursery, and planted it in a front yard. The tree weighed a few hundred pounds and required a three foot deep hole! We hope to expand this program in the coming year and get some big trees planted in the neighborhood.
The Committee also coordinated with the Zoning Committee to get an agreement with the developer of the Good Shepherd Community Church property to maintain existing large street trees during construction, plant a few new trees nearby, plant an attractive garden on the street side, and manage stormwater from the new construction on site.
In April, GCCA hosted the City Council Candidates Forum in collaboration with Cedar Park Neighbors, Spruce Hill and Cobbs Creek Community Associations held at The Enterprise Center. The Forum profiled over 25 Philadelphia City Council at Large Candidates and both City Council Candidates for the Third District at The Enterprise Center. This Forum gave candidates an opportunity to share their vision, strategy and enthusiasm as political leaders ready to serve one of the most dynamic and diverse demographic neighborhoods within Philadelphia. The program was attended by more than 150 residents.
In June GCCA welcomed executives Amanda Evans of The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and Alan Garry of the University City District for updates on emerging trends impacting the University City area.
The GCCA 25th Annual Progressive Dinner was an overwhelming success with over 100 guests being hosted in six historical homes within Garden Court. Hosts and Sponsors of the dinner over the past 25 years were recognized. Funds raised support the music talents of students in the area.
In November City Council Member-Elect Jamie Gauthier gave members of GCCA a preview of her top priorities for the region in 2020. She was well received and responded to a robust list of questions from enthusiastic participants.
Zoning and Development
After a public call in the summer (you maybe have seen the flyers posted around the neighborhood), the Garden Court Board confirmed five new members to the Zoning and Development Committee, representing a variety of Garden Court experiences and perspectives. We have put together a neighborhood demographic snapshot, conducted a community poll on development issues at the 2019 Garden Court annual meeting, and plan to continue doing research to help us think through the issues we deal with.
In our role as a Registered Community Organization with the City of Philadelphia, we reviewed three developments requiring variances to proceed, ultimately supporting each one. Two were modifications to existing buildings by their owner-occupants. The third – an adaptive re-use and new construction of the Good Shepherd Community Church on S 46th Street – will be a more noteworthy change to the neighborhood. After preservation advocates pushed back against an initial proposal for demolition and all new construction, the Committee convened a community meeting and then negotiated several aspects of the updated proposal, such as inclusion of affordable housing, bicycle parking, and use of quality exterior materials and landscaping.
At the end of the year, our district councilperson introduced remapping legislation written by the Planning Commission two years ago. The bill corrects neighborhood zoning to conserve open spaces, preserve housing stock, and allow for new development where appropriate. Committee members attended several council meetings to advocate for the bill, which passed at the end of the 2019 Council Session.