The future of Fabric Row is getting brighter.
Mike Harris, executive director of the South Street Headhouse District, which also covers the stretch of Fabric Row, announced a $1.3 million city grant that will be used to install pedestrian lighting on both sides of Fourth Street from Lombard to Christian.
The installation will be done from the street by troughs at the curb rather than by breaking up the sidewalk. Surveying and bidding will take place in the coming weeks with poles being erected by year’s end since the grant money is only good through January 2016. Pole color will be determined with input from Fourth Street businesses and property owners.
This installation will mark the first of the improvements we reported back in March 2014 to eventually include street amenities like benches, planters and traffic-calming “bump-outs” at key intersections.
Many of the businesses on Fabric Row are owned by residents of Queen Village or nearby neighborhoods, so the responses were carefully weighed and carried significant weight. Attendees of the Queen Village Neighborhood Association meeting last month said pedestrian lighting is a welcome improvement, but they also raised concerns about vacancy, residential occupancy in commercially zoned spaces and how to boost patronage, persist.
Responding to vacancy concerns, Harris asked the audience to name goods and services currently lacking on the street. Baker, florist, art supply store and home goods store were all mentioned. The wish-listing then evolved into a more in-depth conversation about the overall economy of Fabric Row.
Like much of the neighborhood it’s located in, Fabric Row is a mix of old and new. Fabric stores still dot the landscape, but between them are art galleries, salons, vintage shops and upscale boutiques. The fluorescent orange postings on several facades indicate there is more to come, like the forthcoming restaurant at 4th and Fitzwater from South Philly Tap Room chef Scott Schroeder. The majority of those present at the meeting believe the street’s economic viability is dependent on honoring the history of Fabric Row while supporting existing merchants and appealing to patrons and businesses of the future.
This balance, it was suggested, might be achieved through educational workshops—in partnership with Paradigm Gallery, Fleisher Art Memorial, local universities—pop-up shops, enhancement of Fourth Fridays, and artist-merchant partnerships like the one between Bus Stop Boutique and Conrad Booker that led to a stunning window display. Long term, landlord/developer accountability—adherence to building codes, zoning designations, and maintenance—and tenant selection will continue to play a role in how the street is shaped.
In nearby news, the Friends of Bainbridge Green continue to make progress toward transforming the speedway from Third to Fifth into a pedestrian-friendly park space. A traffic study that will inform design is currently underway. Olin landscapers has been tapped to produce schematics and design recommendations in the coming months. At that point, the plan will be presented for neighborhood comment.
What improvements would you like to see on Fabric Row?