Celebrating 20 Years of Community Support by Giving Back to Local Civic Associations

Jan 09, 2019 4 years ago

The support of local civic associations has been critical to UCD’s work since our formation in 1997. Early in our history, the civics served as a bridge between UCD and the neighborhoods they serve, helping to amplify our mission with the community. Our Board of Directors has always included one representative from each association, ensuring the needs of the community are given voice and priority within University City.

As part of our 20th anniversary celebration, we decided to show our deep appreciation for these organizations by developing a project with each of the five civic groups on our board. We worked with the leadership from each association to plan and deliver projects they felt would benefit their specific neighborhoods. After a year of planning and coordination, we’re excited to share the final results of each project.

Cedar Park Neighbors: Historical Window Display

Cedar Park Neighbors (CPN), the non-partisan civic association established in 1960, works to foster collaboration among everyone living and working in the Cedar Park neighborhood, promote community development, provide a forum for communication and community education, respond to neighborhood concerns, and advocate for and promote the general welfare of the Cedar Park community. CPN members had long sought to highlight the rich and colorful history of their neighborhood through a historic window display, and UCD was thrilled to make that vision a reality. “The window display was conceived to communicate the mission, history, and ongoing activities of Cedar Park Neighbors, as well as provide historical information about the neighborhood,” explained CPN member Maureen Tate. “The project also aimed to make good use of a previously covered retail window space to support revitalization efforts along the Baltimore Avenue commercial corridor.” UCD worked with CPN members to compile historic photos, news clippings, and an in-depth feature on the history of the neighborhood written by CPN member Amara Rockar, and then created an eye-catching display in the window of 4928 Baltimore Avenue. Stop by to see photos and details about this diverse neighborhood, as well as timely updates on CPN programming. 

Garden Court Community Association: Parklet

For over 50 years, the Garden Court Community Association (GCCA) has provided their neighbors the opportunity to come together as a positive force for the community and the city at large. Through events, advocacy, and community service, they are building a community open to all. To advance this goal, UCD collaborated with a broad group of GCCA leaders to install one of our outdoor seating platforms, known as Parklets, outside the Pine Street Laundromat on the 4700 block of Pine Street. Although that location is one of the densest in Garden Court, there was a lack of green space or public seating. UCD was excited by the location because it was our first Parklet placed outside of a business that didn’t offer food or drink, and we were curious to observe how people would use the space. At GCCA’s suggestion, we added chess/checkerboard patterns to some of the tabletops to spur further usage, and purchased game sets that people could take out of the laundromat. According to GCCA member Kate Farquhar, the Parklet “allows laundromat customers to keep an eye on their laundry through the front windows, while enjoying the weather outside.” While the Parklets are taken down over the winter months, it will return to this wonderful location in the spring.

Powelton Village Civic Association: Historical Markers

The leaders of Powelton Village Civic Association – a volunteer organization of residents dedicated to making Powelton Village a better place to live and work – sought to highlight the fascinating history of their 150-year-old neighborhood. As one of the original streetcar suburbs of Philadelphia, this National Historic District evolved from a neighborhood of private estates to a residential community in the 1850s and was home to prominent leaders in medicine, politics, and innovation. In the 1960s, the neighborhood became a center for counterculture, like at 3605 Hamilton Street where the Resistance House Commune (pictured on the cover) was founded for people fighting for social justice. Today, the neighborhood is a mix of long-term residents and students. UCD and PVCA sought to highlight a range of individuals – including activists from the suffragette, labor, civil rights and LGBT movements – who made a mark on their community, city and country. The project was based on Penn Professor Douglas Ewbank's Powelton History Blog, which describes both the storied and unsung residents of Powelton from the 1800s and early 1900s. According to PVCA member and UCD board member George Poulin, the sign project is a way to “showcase our pride. By bringing our history to the street, we hope students and those visiting will have a greater appreciation for our neighborhood and why it is such a special place.” Spend some time wandering the beautiful streets of Powelton Village to find all the signs!

Spruce Hill Civic Association: Membership Engagement and Communications Plan

Spruce Hill Community Association (SHCA) is a volunteer organization of neighbors committed to strengthening the Spruce Hill community and to enhancing the quality of neighborhood life for all residents. With its broad range of activities – from the beloved Mayfair in Clark Park to providing Block Improvement grants – SHCA leaders sought UCD’s advice in how to grow its membership program. With that goal in mind, UCD created a Membership Engagement and Communications Plan to help the civic association develop more robust ways of engaging existing members and cultivating new ones, while increasing the association’s visibility to the community at large. In addition, UCD compiled data about the Spruce Hill catchment area to help SHCA build out a membership and communications strategy. “UCD’s effort to analyze relevant data for our community planning process has provided Spruce Hill with the essential tool for constructing a coherent and, hopefully, productive membership drive,” explained Barry Grossbach, longtime Spruce Hill Civic Association leader and UCD board member. “We now have concrete facts to form a basis for community planning thanks to the expertise of UCD staff, and we look forward to making that happen.”

Walnut Hill Community Association: Bus Seat

The Walnut Hill Community Association (WHCA) defines itself as the keeper of the community who serves as a liaison between state and local government resources for a cleaner, safer, and more vibrant community. When discussing potential projects the organization, WHCA’s Lorna Peterson says they were interested in a project that could help them “achieve one of our Walnut Hill Neighborhood Plan Implementation Goals that would improve neighborhood identity and pride of place.” UCD developed bus seats in 2015 as a way of providing seating and information to passengers waiting for public transit; based on WHCA’s goals, we designed and installed a custom seat for the civic association located at the southwest corner of 48th and Chestnut Streets (pictured on the cover). Unlike our other bus seats, this version features a huge graphic welcoming people to Walnut Hill. Peterson says the project increases the identity of the neighborhood and raises “the awareness that the association is at work with community leaders, stakeholders and partners to continue keeping the neighborhood a clean, safe and wonderful place to live, work and play.”