Friends of 40th Street

18 June 2004

Friends of 40 th Street Inaugural Meeting
Meeting Memo No. 1

Date/Place/Time: 28 May 2004/The Rotunda – 40 th & Walnut/8:00 AM

Attendance: Sharrief Ali (SA) Spruce Hill Alliance (SHA)

Glenn Bryan (GB) Community and City Relations (CCR), U of PA

Mark Brakeman (MB) University City Review (UCR)

Robert Christian (RC) University City Review (UCR)

Daniel Cope (DC) Penn Undergraduate Assembly (UA)

Andy Frishkoff (AF) City of Philadelphia Renewal Community (CPRC)

Ajamu Johnson (AJ) Peoples Emergency Center CDC (PECCDC)

Lucy Kerman (LK) President’s Office (PO), U of PA

John Leatherberry (JL) West Powelton (WP)

Melissa Long (ML) Peoples Emergency Center CDC (PECCDC)

John McGarry (JMG) Facilities and Real Estate Services (FRES), U of PA

Tom Rambo (TR) Public Safety (PS), U of PA

Gina Renzi (GR) The Foundation (TF)

Jennifer Rodriguez (JR) Spruce Hill Alliance (SHA)

Michael Rugnetta (MR) Daily Pennsylvanian (DP)

Esaul Sanchez (ES) Facilities and Real Estate Services (FRES), U of PA

Deborah Sanford (DS) 40 th Street Business Association (40ABA)

Harris Sokoloff (Hso) Graduate School of Education (GSE), U of PA

Ravi Srinivasan (RS) Penn Graduate Assembly (GA)

Harris Steinberg (HSt) Penn Praxis (PP), U of PA

Matt Walker (MWa) Partnership Community Development Corporation (PCDC)

Alison Williams (AW) St. Mary’s Church (SM)

Matthew Wolfe (MWO) University City Republicans (UCRep)

Kevin Vaughan (KV) Free Library of Philadelphia (FLP)

Purpose: Kick-off meeting for the Friends of 40 th Street

Items Discussed:

  • Glenn Bryan (GB) welcomed the group, noting that the meeting was organized to serve as a transition from the community forum process for 40 th Street to the creation of the Friends of 40 th Street (Friends) – an advocacy group for the principles created during the community forum process. GB commended the work of the steering committee that had worked on creating and implementing the community process. Sharrieff Ali (SA), Jennifer Rodriguez (JR) and Esaul Sanchez (ES) were among the members of the steering committee who were present at this meeting. Their contributions were noted with appreciation.
  • The group introduced themselves with GB thanking all for coming to the meeting. He noted that the principles created during the community process will guide the evolution of the process; a process that will be inclusive and active, involving as many partners as possible. He noted the wealth of activities pending along the 40 th Street corridor (festivals, development, etc.) and wished the group well as it begins to organize and implement its agenda.
  • Harris Sokoloff (HSo) reported that the purpose of the meeting was to organize the Friends. A draft charge and suggested organizational structure (see items 4 and 5 below) was planned for review during the meeting. HSo noted that the charge for the group grew out of the work of the steering committee. Harris Steinberg (HSt) added that the impetus for the group to organize came from the final community forum on March 15, 2004 at which time the community members called for the work of the steering committee to be expanded to include additional community members. At that time, community members also called for a continued and sustained civic dialogue about the future of the 40 th Street corridor.
  • The draft charge was as follows:

The Friends of 40 th Street will:

  • Advocate for the principles developed through the community forum process.
  • Support the implementation of the principles through constructive civic discourse to advance the goals of the principles.
  • Advise the University City community on the relationship between the evolution of the corridor and the principles.

In these ways, the Friends of 40 th Street will work to maintain an open conversation for the evolution of 40 th Street as an active and diverse urban corridor.

  • The suggested organizational structure was as follows:
  • Distributed leadership model that builds on the expertise of the “Friends.”
  • Provide opportunities for participants to develop additional expertise to continue the civic engagement work that has been so successful so far.
  • Organized to identify and begin work on specific tasks and projects to accomplish the charge and support the implementation of the principles.
  • Guided by the steering committee that has shaped the work thus far.
  • Harris Sokoloff and Harris Steinberg to facilitate the development of this organizational structure, support leadership development and facilitate the work of the group so that it can become self-sustaining within 9 to 12 months.

  • The following issues were discussed with respect to the draft charge and suggested organizational structure:
    • Matt Wolfe (MWo) felt that the charge and structure made sense – to advance the development of the corridor loosely along the lines of principles. He questioned the group’s ability to influence people who will spend their own money to develop properties and businesses along the corridor. He noted that the University is the single unifying force in the area with resources and wondered what Penn’s agenda is concerning the corridor. Rather than establish adversarial relationships with owners and developers, MWo advocated for tying into existing plans and advocating for adherence to the principles.
    • GB noted that the process was vital to Penn’s interests. He stressed that this way of working with the community was a new way for Penn and that is was genuine, guiding the University at the highest levels.
    • MWo questioned Penn’s intentions for Azalea Court (40 th and Pine) and the parking lot at 40 th and Sansom. He stressed that the process was interesting and worthwhile and was interested in the next move.
    • Sharrieff Ali (SA) noted that “friends” groups are typically fundraising groups. He questioned if this was the appropriate role for this group.
    • HSt noted that the ultimate goal of this process was for the Friends to become self-sustaining. The work of the group will balance talk (organizing) and action (projects).
    • John McGarry (JMG) noted his involvement in Friends of Rittenhouse Square and the Center City Residents Association and the role that these groups play in fundraising for projects. He asked, “What are we?” noting that the Friends are not a business association or a community group, but rather a group with a specific agenda – the promotion of 40 th Street. He asked how best to influence the businesses, the Library and the University to fulfill the agenda of the group. He urged the group to hold high the implementation of the principles.
    • HSo reminded the group that they all have connections to other groups and that they can bring the interests of the Friends to their other organizations and vice versa.
    • Robert Christian (RC) noted that, as a business owner and officer of the 40 th Street Area Business Association (40ABA), he was concerned about how realistic it was to expect businesses to be involved. He seconded MWO’s questions (item 6.a. above) concerning the “teeth” of the group, noting that Penn is a major and determining presence. He commended the work of the University City District (UCD) on promoting the area, but felt that the actual tenanting of shop fronts was critical. He expressed frustration in dealing with Penn renting vacant spaces, noting the difficulties that The Last Word Bookstore had in obtaining its current lease. In order to have an impact on the street, RC felt that the Friends need to know whom we are dealing with and who makes the decisions. He felt that one goal might be to enable people to efficiently work the bureaucracy in the Penn system.
    • Alison Williams (AW) felt that a goal of the Friends should be to support business. She cautioned against planning that dictates types of businesses, thereby spurring gentrification.
    • HSt reminded the group that the principles underscore the call for a diverse corridor that balances and acknowledges social responsibility with free market economics. He referred the group to the principles in the May 26, 2004 edition of the University City Review and on the 40 th Street website: (See principles attached.)
    • John Leatherberry (JL) noted his interest in the northern end of 40 th Street and urged the group not to forget it. His organization, West Powelton, stretches north to Girard Avenue.
    • Jennifer Rodriguez (JR) felt that the conversation was getting away from the task at hand. She reminded the group that the objective of the group was figuring out how to carry out the principles. She urged the group to keep them at the forefront and focus on how best to implement them.
  • The consensus of the group relative to the draft charge was that it represented the wishes of the community and was acceptable as drafted. The draft charge was adopted as the charge of the Friends of 40 th Street. HSo reiterated that the charge was not an either/or but rather a both/and – that the group would both work on organizing and carry out projects.
  • A review of the suggested organizational model was made. The following issues were discussed:
  • Esaul Sanchez (ES) felt that the group has clear goals and that the key will be to look for opportunities and threats to the corridor.
  • JR questioned distributed leadership. HSo noted that the organization would be organized around tasks, recognizing expertise that resides in the Friends, rather than a strictly hierarchical, traditional president/vice-president structure.
  • Daniel Cope (DC) wondered how people could join the group.
  • HSt explained that the suggested organizational model was based upon the successful Design Advocacy Group (DAG) model in Philadelphia. DAG is not incorporated and has no staff or board. Still, through effective organization around issues and projects, it has been able to become an effective advocacy voice for quality urban design within a very short period of time (2 ½ years). DAG meetings are open to all; thereby anyone can become a member. Those who have taken active roles in the organization have recently formed a steering committee that helps shape policy and public statements. There are no by-laws, fundraisers and other structural elements of traditional organizations. The DAG model was felt by many to be a good model, initially, for the Friends of 40 th Street.
  • Andy Frishkoff (AF) expressed some hesitation with the DAG model, noting that it relied on the expertise of its membership. HSo noted that one objective of the interim organizational period was to build the knowledge base and provide training to the Friends members.
  • RC reminded the group that the re-opening of the Free Library was an opportunity for the Friends to play an important civic role in the re-dedication of the building.
  • There was general agreement that focusing on the work, as opposed to creating a formal organization, was good. The suggested structure was felt to be acceptable.
  • A review of current and proposed initiatives was made. The following issues were discussed:
  • A zoning variance hearing is planned for 4040 Locust Street.
  • Gina Renzi (GR) reported on a summer arts series planned for Saturday afternoons (June 5 to August 7) outside of the Rotunda on the Walnut Street entrance plaza. This series will bring local talent to the corridor (puppets, Native American festivals, etc.) that need not be limited to 40 th and Walnut. She offered to organize arts activities north of Walnut Street in conjunction with other West Philadelphia arts groups. The series is a joint effort of UCD and Penn’s Business Services office. The potential to link these efforts with the work of West Powelton and PEC was noted.
  • HSt reported that two developer teams have requested that the Friends review their plans. A development task force was established which included Ajamu Johnson, Jennifer Rodriguez, John McGarry, Tom Rambo, Alison Williams, Matt Walker, John Leatherberry, Glenn Bryan, Lucy Kerman, Matt Wolfe and Harris Steinberg. HSt will contact the developers and set up meetings to review their plans. The task force will report back to the full Friends.
  • Kenneth Vaughan (KV) observed that the re-opening of the Walnut West brank of the Free Library this fall was an opportunity for the group to reach community members north and south of 40 th and Walnut. The library will be moving its collection from temporary space across the street and the move will be a community-wide effort that the Friends could support.
  • The quality-of-life at the intersection of 40 th and Market was identified as an important issue for the Friends. It was noted that this topic surfaced repeatedly during the forum and was embedded in the principles (It’s our house). Matt Walker and Lucy Kerman will organize a task force to begin to think about how the Friends can be effective on this corner. John Leatherberry, Tom Rambo and Bob Christian offered to serve on this task force.
  • The next meeting of the Friends of 40 th Street is scheduled for 25 June 2004 at 8AM at the Community Room of 3901 Market. Street.

Submitted by:


Harris M. Steinberg
Penn Praxis

cc: Those in attendance
Tyler Martin
Stefany Jones
Lisa Lord
Leah Ploussiou
Jim Lilly
Cory Bowman
Claudia Christian
Eric Goldstein
Lucia Shen
Joe Fischer

© 2004, 40th Street Community Forum and Serendip