East Passyunk Avenue has spent much of the last two decades re-establishing itself as a commercial destination and haven for independent businesses. The East Passyunk Avenue Business Improvement District has been a big part of that renaissance. Their new executive director, Rebecca Bush O’Leary, seeks to continue the upward trajectory.
O’Leary assumed the role in mid-June. She’s familiar with the turf from her childhood and as a patron, hailing from the Newbold neighborhood.
“Generationally and culturally, there is such a great mix of people and places along the avenue,” O’Leary said of the allure of the one-mile business corridor. “Having this job, I’d say, is an excellent opportunity for an urbanist and a Philadelphian who wants to give back to our city and help elevate the independent businesses that make it thrive.”
The community advocate, who has had similar leadership duties in hotspots such as Los Angeles and New York City, has “supreme faith” that the Avenue’s progress will advance further as new, creative minds seek coveted storefronts. The Avenue operates with a 96-percent occupancy rate and has attracted a bevy of industrious go-getters, including restaurateurs who, 10 years ago, helped it to win distinction as one of Food and Wine Magazine’s 10 Best Foodie Streets in America.
“It’s got good bones,” O’Leary, whose connections to South Philly include an interim executive director stint for Bella Vista’s Fleisher Art Memorial, said of the Avenue’s foundation and integrity.
To champion the Avenue, the eager leader looks forward to bringing more attention to businesses as the summer winds down and fall unfolds, with a new music festival set for September, annual Halloween celebrations, and the holiday season guaranteeing ample shopping and dining occasions.
“I’m incredibly pleased to be in this position where I can interact with people who want to make a difference in an area that’s very dear to me,” said O’Leary, whose residence for the last seven years puts her close to her new work space. “There’s a lot of room for creativity, and I’m going to enjoy each second of coming to know the next generation of creative people…the business improvement district, it will be my family.”