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The sidewalk of Lancaster Avenue between 36th and 38th streets is an area targeted under the revitalization of Baltimore and Lancaster avenues. [Ari Friedman/The Daily Pennsylvanian]

Eli Massar, the University City District's Baltimore Avenue corridor manager, knew something was different as he walked to work on the Tuesday after Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend -- he just was not sure what it was.

That is, until he realized that the trash cans that had been put to work on the preceding Thursday and Friday were full, and the streets were garbage-free.

For Massar, this was one of the many successes already evident in the UCD's efforts to renovate the Baltimore and Lancaster avenues commercial corridors.

The project was initially funded by $440,000 from the William Penn Foundation and a grant from the Local Initiatives and Support Corporation. The Philadelphia Department of Commerce made a December announcement that it would make a $25,000 contribution.

When Massar began working, a business association and planning group already existed on a renovation of Baltimore Avenue, and, as he explains, it was truly a project the neighborhood wanted to pursue.

In addition to cleanups and efforts to support local businesses, the UCD and local residents will also be putting together a weekly farmer's market on Tuesdays, starting May 6, as part of the revitalization initiative. In conjunction with the project Farm to City, fresh Pennsylvania produce and barbecued chicken will be sold from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the 4900 block of Baltimore Avenue.

On the Lancaster Avenue front, several projects are also underway between 34th and 38th streets. Tanya Washington, the UCD manager for the corridor, said that a market study for the area has been completed and analyzed.

What do residents of Lancaster Avenue want changed?

Mainly, according to the study, they don't like the vacant storefronts, the level of crime -- or the perception of crime -- and the existing breadth of stores.

Washington explained that the most popular store currently on the corridor came in as the 7-Eleven on 34th Street and Lancaster Avenue.

"That was a surprise to us," Washington said.

Still, she explained, it is not as shocking if one considers the fact that no other facility exists on the corridor that sells grocery items.

Of course, as the market study indicated, a grocery store was the most unanimously desired business.

In addition, the study explained that neighborhood residents most want to attract more businesses, clean up facades and plan more special events.

"I took that as a blueprint for my plan for next year," Washington said.

Plans are also in the works for the western portion of Lancaster Avenue, but things are moving slowly.

Washington's partner in the Lancaster Avenue renovation, Cindy Romero, the People's Emergency Center Development Corporation corridor manager for the avenue between 38th and 42nd streets, was disappointed when funding for three planned garbage cans fell through.

Still, she is hopeful that the money will be coming in soon, and in the meantime, Romero is doing what she can to make improvements.

One exciting event was the opening of a new business on the corridor -- MOMobile, which provides services to pregnant teenage mothers.

"That's about as much as we've gotten," Romero said.

Additionally, plans are in the works for facade cleanup and business support for new and existing companies coming to Romero's region. And, of course, she is on top of the garbage can project -- one that has been so successful on Baltimore Avenue.

"We're still working on a property maintenance plan for the" cans, Romero said. "It wastes your work if you don't have that part of the program put together."

Still, in general, the corridors are in better shape than they once were, with stores opening, buildings cleaned and trees planted.

"Right now, we're just awaiting the blooms -- if this never-ending winter will ever end," Massar said.

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