Starting out as a way to keep residents and businesses informed during a revitalization study in 2007, the Penn Central of Richfield neighborhood group is celebrating its fifth year of existence this March.
The group is made up of Penn Avenue business owners and area residents who want to assist in the revamping of the Penn Avenue business district, which runs along Penn from 68th Street to Highway 62.
“The business area between the Crosstown and 68th had been studied a number of times for redevelopment,” David Gepner, leader of Penn Central of Richfield, told Patch. “With a lot of the infrastructure being 50 years old it begins to deteriorate. … [And] nobody wants deteriorating and dumpy looking businesses.”
In 2006 the city signed a contract with Hoisington Koegler Group Inc. to conduct the revitalization study, according to Karen Barton, assistant director of . The study launched in the fall of 2007 and most of the work began in January 2008, kicking-off with neighborhood meetings to gain input from residents and business owners. Eventually a revitalization plan was adopted by the city and Penn Central of Richfield began its role as the area’s biggest advocate for seeing the plan through.
“Since then, we’ve been trying to keep the dream alive,” Gepner said. “It’s been five years and I think we can see progress. It wasn’t as extensive or as rapid as I had hoped or thought, but there’s been noticeable progress.”
Yes, there’s been some changes on the avenue: , converted a former Asian restaurant, and new tenants such as Ralph’s Shoe Repair and have arrived. In addition, one of the group’s most notable contributions to the community is , a community event with food, giveaways, special store sales, balloon animals and more that is held in the late summer or early fall.
While the group has seen some progress and success, Gepner joked the area needed a big controversy to stimulate more interest from stakeholders. But with no guarantee of a hot button issue on the horizon, for now, he and other members will keep pushing for the creation of an inviting business district.
"Right now we're in the process of creating a logo to create an identity for the area," Gepner said. "We are also eventually looking to put up banners, placards in windows or create a color concept that will unify the area and enhance the experience [for all who visit]."
The next Penn Central of Richfield meeting is at 7:30 a.m. March 15 at . For more information on the group, visit penncentralofrichfield.com.