Neighborhood Planning

Germantown United CDC Announces Organizational Strategic Plan

Germantown United CDC released the organization’s five-year strategic plan in September 2018. This new plan will serve as a roadmap and tool for assessing progress, and will help prioritize and advance the organization’s work in Northwest Philadelphia’s Germantown neighborhood now through the year 2023.

The year-long planning process helped Germantown United CDC’s leadership to step back and examine where we are, where we want to go, and how to get there.

We have sharpened the organization’s mission, assessed program activities, and looked for opportunities to enhance our community and economic development work.

The planning process was led by V. Lamar Wilson Associates, a private consulting firm specializing in community development contracted to examine GUCDC’s program operations, and solicit different points of view and critiques of the organization—internal and external. This comprehensive process was made possible by the generous support of The Philadelphia Foundation.

View/download the full plan here.

For a quick overview of what’s changed, click here.

Speak Up, Speak Out for Germantown at District Plan Meeting January 8th

Like each of the Philadelphia2035 District Plans, The Upper Northwest Plan is informed by a series of public meetings to ensure that the plan’s goals are compatible with community needs. Meetings will be held on weekday evenings in the District at transit-accessible locations. Explore the Upper Northwest District website.

The first public meeting for the Upper Northwest District Plan will be:

Monday January 8th, 2018 at 6:30pm
Brossman Center, Lutheran Theological Seminary of Philadelphia
7301 Germantown Avenue

But wait, there’s more! »»»

“This is Germantown Heart & Soul” Winter Community Gatherings, beginning November 19th


Download the press release as a PDF >>

“This is Germantown Heart & Soul” Winter Community Gatherings

Ask Residents to Guide Neighborhood Development in Northwest Philadelphia
Through Creative Participatory Planning Process, beginning November 19th

_final_gtownheartsoul-04Germantown, Philadelphia, PA – This is Germantown Heart & Soul, a project of Germantown United Community Development Corporation (GUCDC) and Just Act, will host a series of community gatherings throughout Northwest Philadelphia’s Germantown neighborhood this winter beginning on November 19, 2016. The Germantown community is invited to participate in a unique interactive group storytelling experience. Unlike traditional civic meetings and town halls, the events – called Story Circles – use theater as a planning tool and center on capturing the wishes, needs, and ideas of residents as they share personal stories of meaningful experiences in Germantown and what they view as essential for growth of the neighborhood’s vibrant but struggling shopping district. A calendar of events is included below, with additional dates to be announced.

Story Circles will be facilitated by a multigenerational “Storytelling Engagement Team” comprised of Germantown residents, with support from the Just Act Ensemble. The collected stories will guide Germantown United CDC’s future work and plans for successful, community-responsive business corridor revitalization and contribute to efforts underway to make the central business district a people-centered main street destination for the Germantown community and visitors from outside the immediate neighborhood.

“This is Germantown Heart & Soul aims to create a shared sense of belonging that ultimately improves local decision-making and strengthens social, cultural, and economic vibrancy,” said Emaleigh Doley, Commercial Corridor Manager at Germantown United CDC. “Germantown is one of the city’s largest neighborhoods, with a population of 44,000. It’s important to recognize that the immediate needs of residents living in the Chew and Belfield area of East Germantown might differ from those in West Germantown’s Penn-Knox section, for example. That doesn’t mean the Eastside and the Westside have nothing in common. We also all share the business district.”

A core goal of the project is to connect both the formal and informal networks contributing to community improvement efforts and operating at the micro level – from block captains to Registered Community Organizations (RCOs) and neighborhood civics with limited boundaries.

Scenes from the This is Heart & Soul pop-up story booth at the Friends of Vernon Park Spring Bazaar, October 8, 2016; Park(ing) Day Philadelphia installation, September 16, 2016; and Maple Village Story Gathering, October 18, 2016.

“These story sharing events build upon an interest and commitment in helping communities adapt and implement positive changes based upon the vision and experiences of all community members and create new opportunities for residents and community stakeholders to meet in-person,” said Lisa Jo Epstein, Executive Director of Just Act.

This is Germantown Heart & Soul made its public debut in the spring of 2016 through a series of successful pop-up story booths held along the business district at a variety of spaces, from the bustling intersection of Germantown and Chelten Avenues to the annual Juneteenth Celebration, the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States, organized by the Johnson House Historic Site. The Story Engagement Team was formed in the summer and fall of 2016 and has been meeting regularly to train for and plan the upcoming Story Circles events. The Germantown Life Enrichment Center, a community-oriented recreational and educational facility in the heart of Germantown at 5722 Greene Street, generously donated meeting space for the team and is one of several This is Germantown Heart & Soul sponsoring organizations.

Story Engagement Team training sessions. 

With the addition of the more intimate Story Circles series, This is Germantown Heart & Soul will:

  • Build, diversify, and strengthen resident engagement with and collective participation in civic process to increase impact and positively affect neighborhood-wide planning decisions;
  • Strengthen resident readiness for, and engagement in the Philadelphia City Planning Commission’s “Philadelphia2035” District Planning process for the Upper Northwest, slated for 2017-2018;
  • Expand who participates in public processes related to real estate development and neighborhood revitalization by engaging isolated and diverse resident groups;
  • Cultivate and/or improve relationships, social community cohesion and stewardship of place.

The collected data will also become the highlight of “Community Cataloguing Data Jams” – events in January 2017 where participants will listen to transcripts of stories from their neighbors to collectively identify and catalogue shared visions for what the community values.


The current calendar of events is included below. Additional dates will be added. All Germantown residents and community stakeholders are invited. Events are open to the public. Food and refreshments will be provided, along with live music and good cheer. Attend one or attend them all. For an up-to-date program calendar visit Contact Germantown United CDC at 215-856-4303 or

Saturday, November 19 from 4 – 6 p.m.
Location: Providence Baptist Church, 87 E. Haines Street, Philadelphia, PA 19144
Sponsoring Community Organization: Providence Baptist Church

Monday, December 5 from 7 – 9 p.m.
Location: Awbury Arboreteum, 1 Awbury Rd, Philadelphia, PA 19138
Sponsoring Community Organization: Awbury Arboretum Neighbors, Chew and Belfield Neighbors Club, and Awbury Arboreteum

Tuesday, December 13 from 7 – 9 p.m.
Location: Germantown Mennonite Church, 21 W Washington Lane, Philadelphia, PA 19144
Sponsoring Community Organization: Pastorius Community Garden, Men Who Care of Germantown, Germantown Mennonite Church, and Germantown Mennonite Historic Trust

About Germantown United Community Development Corporation

Germantown United Community Development Corporation (GUCDC) is a community-based nonprofit organization whose mission is to promote and facilitate the revitalization of the business district in the Germantown neighborhood of Northwest Philadelphia through a sustainable, creative, and community-driven approach to economic development. Vibrant commercial corridors or “Main Streets” contribute to strong neighborhoods. They provide a place to work, shop, and meet your neighbors. Through our Targeted Corridor Management Program contract with the city’s Commerce Department, Germantown United CDC provides assistance to businesses, brings planning and resources to the corridor, oversees activities to make the corridor clean and safe, and works to attract new businesses to the area. We are actively working to bolster and reinforce the vibrancy of the business district to meet the needs of the surrounding community and attract visitors from outside the immediate neighborhood. Germantown United CDC is also exploring opportunities to strengthen and diversify the mix of commercial uses in the business district, the potential to reuse vacant or underutilized properties, business and job attraction strategies, and available sources of funding to support recommended revitalization strategies.

Social: | |

About Just Act

Just Act is a distinctive hybrid of artistic and community engagement committed to social justice. Our Ensemble of artist-educators facilitate unique theatre-based programs with non-actors that activate and nurture meaningful dialogue, reflection, healing and action around complex, often divisive social issues. Just Act is committed to building and fortifying inclusive, restorative civic engagement through partnerships across sectors and differences. Informed by Theatre of the Oppressed and other art and activist strategies, our work is a creative catalyst for community activism and personal change. In all we undertake, Just Act renews and deepens the capacity of social change seekers and makers to stand up for justice on personal, inter-group and systemic levels with compassion and renewed courage. In these times of anxiety, bustle and disconnection, Just Act offers refreshing, participatory “refuel zones” to creatively pause and attend to tension and fractured relations – particularly around race, culture, and socio-economic disparities – to reweave connections and grow empathy, understanding and action plans.

Social: |

Media Contact:
Emaleigh Doley
Commercial Corridor Manager, Germantown United CDC
Office: 215-856-4303
Mobile: 610-331-3758

Lisa Jo Epstein
Executive Director, Just Act
Mobile: 215-290-9784 

# # #


RES to complete Chelten Avenue Commercial Corridor Market Study and Revitalization Strategy

res-logo_9-24Germantown United Community Development Corporation (GUCDC) has retained Real Estate Strategies, Inc. (RES) to conduct a market study and develop a revitalization strategy for the Chelten Avenue commercial corridor in Germantown. GUCDC is actively working to bolster and reinforce the vibrancy of Chelten Avenue to meet the needs of the surrounding community, attract visitors from outside the immediate neighborhood, and provide employment opportunities for neighborhood residents. Building on these efforts, the purpose and objectives of this study are to explore opportunities to strengthen and diversify the mix of commercial uses in the corridor, the potential to reuse vacant or underutilized properties, business and job attraction strategies, and available sources of funding to support recommended revitalization strategies.

GUCDC_Corridor_0057_Monique_Brand copy

RES provides advisory services in real estate and economic development and has extensive experience in preparing market analyses and developing revitalization strategies for commercial corridors and neighborhoods in Philadelphia and throughout the greater mid-Atlantic region. Additionally, RES principals have over 25 years of experience working on development plans and initiatives in the Germantown neighborhood. Careful market research underpins all RES engagements, with the understanding that the best business attraction and economic development strategies begin with a realistic understanding of market dynamics.

The mission of Germantown United Community Development Corporation (GUCDC) is to promote and facilitate the revitalization of the business corridors in the Germantown neighborhood of Northwest Philadelphia through a sustainable, creative, and community-driven approach to economic development. Learn more at

Shape Chelten Ave: Rapid Planning Project with The American Planning Association, May 16-20

apa-logoGermantown United CDC applied for and received the American Planning Association’s Community Planning Assistance Team (CPAT) to conduct a brief and focused planning effort on a small area of Germantown. Since GUCDC’s focus is on commercial corridors, the portion of West Chelten Avenue between Morris Street and Greene Street was selected as the study area.

The CPAT consists of volunteer urban planners and professionals from all over the country who come into an area to work for one week’s time, as part of a rapid planning process. Our project will take place during the week of May 16-20, 2016 and include two public events on May 16 and May 19. You’re invited to participate! Residents, business owners, and other stakeholders will be asked to contribute their local knowledge and ideas towards building a collective vision of this commercial corridor.

GUCDC_Corridor_0057_Monique_Brand copy


1. Monday, May 16th at 6:30PM
Interactive planning/design workshop to gather community input | Share on Facebook

2. Thursday, May 19th at 6:30PM
Presentation of the results and discussion | Share on Facebook

Both public meetings will be held at the Pegasus Room at The Flying Horse Center, located at 5534 Pulaski Ave (Chelten and Pulaski). During the week, the Community Planning Assistance Team will be using the Imperfect Gallery at 5601 Greene St as their central workspace and headquarters (stop in and say hello). To RSVP to either event, email or call 215-856-4303.


Project Background

Since 2014, Germantown United CDC (GUCDC) has been working with several other groups in Germantown to seek planning resources for Germantown. (Organizational partners include: Historic Germantown, Germantown Community Connection, G’town Restoration CDC, the City Planning Commission.) In that spirit, GUCDC applied for and received the American Planning Association’s Community Planning Assistance Team (CPAT) to conduct a brief and focused planning effort on a small portion of Germantown.

West Chelten Avenue between Morris Street and Greene Street was selected as the study area. This stretch includes one of Germantown’s busiest SEPTA train stations and bus stops, one of the most dangerous intersections in Philadelphia for pedestrians/vehicular accidents (Wayne Ave/Chelten Ave), along with a large swath of vacant properties with lots of potential (former CareerLink building; former House of Jin property; continued vacancies at Chelten Plaza; etc.) along with many other key spaces (Mastery Picket Charter School, the Burgess Center, the former-Pathmark building, and more).

We hope that the results of this project, which will be shared and available to the public, will give all of us who are dedicated to bringing jobs and economic improvement to Germantown some new tools to achieve that end. There is value in keeping the momentum going, and the focus on a critical part of Chelten Avenue.

About the American Planning Association

The American Planning Association provides leadership in the development of vital communities by advocating excellence in planning, promoting education and citizen empowerment, and providing our members with the tools and support necessary to meet the challenges of growth and change.

Through the Community Planning Assistance Team program, the APA organizes volunteer planning teams tailored specifically to a community’s needs. Members offer their time and expertise to people and places where additional resources are needed. This program is supported through donations.


  • By pairing a multidisciplinary team of expert planning professionals from around the country with community members, key stakeholders, and relevant decision makers, the place-based initiative seeks to foster community education, engagement, and empowerment.
  • Each team is selected for the specific expertise needed on the project to offer pro bono assistance in developing a framework or vision plan that promotes a sustainable, livable, economically vibrant, and healthy community.
  • Communities facing a range of challenges including, but not limited to, social equity and affordability, economic development, sustainability, consensus building, and urban design are well-suited for assistance through the program.
  • Projects focus on localities with a demonstrated need for assistance, where planning resources and expertise may not otherwise be available.
  • CPAT projects are collaborative efforts with shared responsibilities. CPATs and communities work together throughout the process.
  • APA contributes the time of its staff and volunteer experts while the recipient communities cover travel costs.

Meet Germantown’s Community Planning Assistance Team and read more about this project on the American Planning Association website.

Germantown United CDC is a finalist in the Knight Cities Challenge!

knight-cities-challenge-logoGermantown United CDC is 1 of 158 finalists in The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s Knight Cities Challenge!

Civic innovators from across the country submitted more than 4,500 ideas to this year’s challenge. Submissions came from many nonprofit and government organizations, as well as design experts, urban planning organizations and individuals focused on making their cities more successful.

Here’s our one sentence pitch:

Beyond the Census: Building a Positive Data Story of a Community’s Human Resources
Increasing economic opportunity by discovering new data about underserved neighborhoods that attract new businesses and investment.

Germantown neighborhood is well-represented, with three projects proposed by Germantown residents making the final round – congratulations also to Amanda Staples and Vashti DuBois! Winners will be announced in Spring 2016. Stay tuned.

Read more:

158 finalists move forward in the Knight Cities Challenge

Philly Has More Knight Cities Challenge Finalists Than Anyone Else

Councilwoman Bass Introduces Bill to Raise over $3.4 million for Street Calming Efforts

Improving walkability can boost Germantown’s commercial corridors, in addition to saving lives. Today, Councilwoman Cindy Bass introduced a bill to raise an estimated $3.4 million for street calming efforts in the City. More about the bill is included in the press release below, issued by the Office of Councilwoman Cindy Bass.


Pictured: Chelten Ave & Wayne Ave in Germantown, listed in a recent report as one of the top 10 intersections in Philly for most pedestrian involved crashes. Photo by Emaleigh Doley.

Councilwoman Bass Introduces Bill to Raise over $3.4 million for Street Calming Efforts

PHILADELPHIA – Today, Councilwoman Cindy Bass (8th District) introduced a bill that will raise an estimated $3.47 million for street calming measures throughout the City of Philadelphia.

The ordinance, which would take effect in July 2016, would add an additional $5 fee to vehicles registered to an address in the City of Philadelphia. Drivers would pay the fee at the time a vehicle is registered or when the registration is renewed.

In 2013, the state legislature passed Act 89, which authorized counties across the Commonwealth to add this fee to registrations. The additional funds would be collected by PennDot and subsequently distributed to the county.

“Every part of our City has been impacted by senseless traffic fatalities,” said Councilwoman Bass. In light of all the traffic deaths and injuries, devoting more resources to slowing cars down will protect all those who use our public thoroughfares—motorists, pedestrians, cyclists, and mass transit riders.”

According to the 2015 Vision Zero report produced by the Bicycle Coalition, Philadelphia has one of the highest rates of pedestrian traffic fatalities in the country. A recent list from the Bicycle Coalition listed three intersections in the 8th Council District: Broad & Olney, Broad & Lehigh, and Chelten & Wayne in the top 10 for most pedestrian involved crashes. The report also highlights an additional $1 billion that traffic crashes cost the City ever year. If passed, the additional funding provided for traffic calming measures like speed cushions will save lives and save money for the City every year.

Since Act 89 went into effect in January 2015, only three counties—Cumberland, Blair and Fulton—have taken advantage of this new measure, which requires a local ordinance to trigger the funding.

“There are certainly more steps for our City to take to reach the goal of zero traffic deaths, but providing additional money for proven street safety measures is a step in the right direction,” Bass added. “We will continue working with the Streets Department and the Police Department to make sure every roadway is safe for motorists and pedestrians alike.”

Councilwoman Cindy Bass represents the 8th Council District, which includes Germantown, Mt. Airy, Nicetown, Tioga, Chestnut Hill, portions of Logan, and West Oak Lane. She is Chair of Council’s committee on Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs.

Re-imagining Maplewood Mall Festival, a “Germantown Renaissance” is Saturday, May 30th

Re-imagine Germ Ren LargeGermantown, Philadelphia, PA (May 13, 2015) The 3rd annual spring Re-imagine Maplewood Mall Festival will take place on Maplewood Mall (between Germantown Avenue and Greene Streets) on Saturday, May 30th (rain date June 6th), from 12pm to 5:00pm. This free event will offer live music, fo
od from restaurants in and around the Mall (Flower Café, K&J Caribbean, and Little Jimmies), locally made arts and crafts vendors, and entertainment for children. This year’s festival features a solid musical lineup, with a special performance by Kùlú Mèlé African Dance and Drum Ensemble, one of the City’s oldest and most well-regarded dance companies.

Building on the immense successes of the last three Re-imagining Maplewood Mall Festivals, Germantown United CDC is working with community stakeholders and local businesses to host this year’s Festival.  Last year’s event drew hundreds of local residents, showcasing local talent and providing free family-friendly activities. The year’s event theme, “Germantown Renaissance”, is an opportunity to re-imagine Germantown, and Maplewood Mall, as an epicenter for creativity, music, food, literature, poetry and art.

“We want to not only showcase the brilliance of our own community”, said Germantown United CDC Executive Director Andy Trackman, “but demonstrate to Philadelphia that Germantown is a gathering place for the cutting edge in art and culture.”

In addition to Kulu Mele, the musical lineup also includes:

Jim Dragoni, a composer, guitarist and teacher with performance areas in blues, jazz and his own fiery original brand of hybridized cross genre art-music.

Bethlehem and Sad Patrick a vocal and guitar duo who specialize in songs of love, love lost, and love that would be better off lost. The duo recently released their first full-length CD, Did You  Ever Do?

Live from NYC DreamWolf viaawQward talent – Jendog Lonewolf & Yalini Dream joined  forces in 2011 to commemorate lives lost to police brutality. Rooted in ending the full     continuum of violence and exploitation from the intimate to the global, from the street to the  state, DreamWolf invokes a masterful collision of Hip Hop, poetry, theater & dance in their  collaborative work, Above Street Level.

Rhenda Fearrington a Philadelphia jazz legend. She delivers an authentic and warm presentation of Jazz standards mixed with Soulful originals. This well established jazz vocalist has a history of working with artists such as Roberta Flack and MTUME and kicked off the 2014 Center City Jazz Festival.

Yolanda Wisher & The Quick Fixx the group features Germantown born and Philadelphia- based poet, singer, musician, and educator Yolanda Wisher

The Re-imagining Maplewood Mall Festivals started in 2013 as an open-air café/block party,  and to engage with residents to re‐imagine what the Maplewood Mall could be: a space for families and neighbors to enjoy a nice afternoon out in Germantown. Since then, the event has grown to become an annual much-anticipated community festival.

“These festivals are an opportunity to bring the entire Germantown community together and support our locally based economy while helping to create the vibrancy that once used to exist in Germantown’s commercial district”, said Germantown United CDC Board President Garlen Capita. “Since the festivals started we have had a number of people recall their fond memories of shopping in Maplewood Mall. It is our hope that we can again make our corridors vibrant community spaces. ”

“Re-imagining Maplewood Mall is a labor of love and a chance for the community to show up and show out for each other. It is a true display of Germantown at its best and a reflection of how much this community cares”, said Event Coordinator Amelia Carter.

“The festival embodies our hopes and dreams for Maplewood Mall so get ready for a great day of fun and good food”, said Linda Samuel, owner of the Flower Café at Linda’s. “Our famous veggie burgers are just one of the many reasons to make it to the Re-imagining Maplewood Mall festival!”

Support for the event comes in part from this year’s sponsors: Philly Office Retail, Harvest Equities, Post Brothers Apartments, Loretta Witt at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach, REALTORS, Elfant Wissahickon Realtors, Jeff King, The King Agency Inc., Allstate Insurance Co., and Germantown Friends School.

For more information about the Re-imagining Maplewood Mall Festival, and vending table registration please contact or 215-856-4303.

Germantown United Community Development Corporation (GUCDC) is a three year-old community development corporation that is rapidly gaining momentum and building trust in the Germantown community over its short life. GUCDC’s mission is to promote and facilitate the revitalization of Germantown’s business corridors through a sustainable, creative, and community-driven approach to economic development. With the help of a new full-time Corridor Manager and host of volunteers, GUCDC is working to promote local businesses via an online business directory through a grant from the City’s Commerce Department; hosting bi-monthly Business Info Sessions to connect existing businesses to resources; cross promoting the businesses with the 16 designated historic sites in Germantown by partnering with Historic Germantown to promote their Second Saturday program; launching a Storefront Activation program and Street Tree planting program with a number of local partners.

Founded in 2011, Germantown United CDC’s focus is to work with residents, businesses and community organizations to create an inspirational vision of Germantown’s Business Corridors and surrounding neighborhoods, create innovative case studies and sustainable business models to attract green-oriented developers, and recruit forward-thinking investors to Germantown committed to fostering sustainable economic growth and development.

GUCDC Hosts Meeting on National Main Street Model

MainStreetCenter_LOGO_RGB As a result of our annual Board Retreat in October of this past year, Germantown United CDC (GUCDC) decided to adopt the National Main Street model as a way to guide our work as the commercial corridor manager. The Main Street Approach, a 4 point strategy to revitalize commercial corridors through community input and collaboration, was developed by the National Main Street Center, a subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  The meeting, held on Saturday, February 7,  was facilitated by Donna Ann Harris, a nationally recognized Community district revitalization and Historic Preservation consultant. Ms. Harris guided the meeting of 25 community leaders and GUCDC Board members and volunteers through the Main Street Approach,  and how it can be utilized in Germantown. GUCDC has established four committees to guide our work going forward. Those committees are: Promotions, Design, Organization, Economic Restructuring.

The Main Street ApproachTM is fundamentally a self-help program, that uses every kind of local asset—be they historic buildings, community organizations, and talented local residents who all join together to create events and projects make their downtown better. Local Main Street programs foster the creativity of community residents through committee work. Committees devise local projects to bring people back to shop and dine; ensure the district is clean, safe and attractive for shoppers; help existing business expand and recruit new, complementary business and finally create a management organization to raise funds, recruit partners, and communicate to the public about its work. Local Main Street programs are driven by volunteers, who learn about the market realities and make incremental change in the district over time.

GUCDC welcomes volunteers from the community to join these committees. Organizations that are already doing projects in the committee areas are also welcome to join,and/or include and inform GUCDC of their projects.


Contact Us
Open Monday through Friday. We encourage you to call ahead to confirm availability.
Fuel the Momentum
Join us on our annual campaign to raise $55,000 by the end of 2018.
Neighborhood Newsletter

Subscribe to our email newsletter and stay up to date on all things Germantown.