BillyPenn: The Enterprise Center gets $1 million in new federal funding to help revitalize West Philly’s historic 52nd Street corridor

Another $1 million is being dedicated to help revitalize the 52nd Street business corridor, a historic cluster of Black commerce and culture in West Philadelphia.

Elected officials, business owners, and stakeholders in the surrounding communities gathered this morning to celebrate the new federal funding, passed as part of the spending bill signed into law last week.

This money will go directly to economic development nonprofit The Enterprise Center, for its 52nd Street Initiative, which supports business owners along the stretch.

“We’re here to kickstart this resurgence of art and culture on the corridor,” Shuja Moore, the Enterprise Center’s 52nd corridor manager, told the assembled group Friday morning. The area was battered by the pandemic, and some businesses suffered looting and property damage when people took advantage of tumult during various social justice protests over the past couple of years.

The goal isn’t just to build on the resiliency of the surviving businesses, but to help launch new ventures that will play an integral part in the corridor’s rebirth.

Khadir Abdur-Rahim, part of the family running the African Cultural Art Forum, a community mainstay at 221 S. 52nd St., recalled how COVID forced their business to readjust. “You can say things are good or bad, but you got to go with the flow, roll with the punches.”

At the event, U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans was joined by Councilmember Jaime Gauthier, state Sen. Vincent Hughes, and Enterprise Center President Della Clark. They all expressed that while there are still challenges ahead, progress on the corridor is critically important.

“This has been a very hard time over these past two years, but 52nd Street is the backbone of the community,” said Gauthier.

“West Philadelphia is extremely important to this city, this state, and this country,” Evans stressed. “This is an anchor, and we will bring it back.”

The 52nd Street initiative aligns with some of The Enterprise Center’s other priorities. Last week, the CDC bought a building at 24 S. 52 St. that’s slated to become a sit-down restaurant called The Commons, per Clark. The aim is to have doors open in late 2022 or early 2023.

A grant from Wells Fargo helped fund an initial revitalization drive last fall, where 40 volunteers from the bank joined local construction firms owned by people of color to provide what Clark estimated to be $1 million of services in a day.

A similar cleaning drive in partnership with JPMorgan Chase is in the works, along with a mentoring program, said Timothy Roundtree, Enterprise Center vice president.

“We have a lot of minority small contractors that can perform the work, but they lack the back office support or training to understand how to run a business,” Roundtree said. That’s where he and his team step in, to “not only connect contractors to opportunities, but to resources that we have internally and through our partnership with LF Driscoll.”

The $1 million infusion is part of about $6.3 million that Rep. Evans says he secured for his constituents in Congress’ omnibus appropriation bill. Other funding includes:

  • $1 million for the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium
  • $1 million for improving healthy food access through the Share Food Program
  • $1 million for the proposed Nicetown Sport Court
  • $1 million for Philadelphia Youth Basketball (to support a youth development and community empowerment center)
  • $1 million for the Mann Center for Performing Arts