To residents, the area around Lyceum Avenue and Green Lane is more than city block—it's a neighborhood. Through cleanups, regular potluck dinners, and simple communication, homeowners now boast of a rebirth for the Roxborough neighborhood.
Going along with the increased neighborhood pride and the unique historical architecture, the Roxborough Development Corporation helped secure a $30,000 grant from the Preservation Alliance to help renovate homes on Lyceum Avenue.
Residents say that's just another step in the continued Central Roxborough revitalization.
"To me, it's very exciting to be involved in the grant," said Dr. Bill Pezzello of Lyceum Physical Medicine. "It's not just this grant that's great, but to have a vision about the possibilities here will spark more people to participate."
The business owner and resident has helped lead the cleanup charge, along with Dave Schiman, Louise Fischer, Kay Sykora and others. Regular potluck dinners began bring people together.
"Long-time people were talking about people leaving, so to them, I think they are grateful. We're not ships passing in the night. There's a sense of a neighborhood that hasn't been here in a while," said Schiman, from Roxborough Community Acupuncture and also a resident.
The RDC took notice of the positive chatter. Operations Director James Calamia not only worked to secure funds from the Preservation Alliance, but will also start a conversation on what the future holds for the area.
He said the grant is from the alliance's "Vital Neighborhoods Initiative," which awards money to specific blocks—in this case on Lyceum Avenue, from Ridge Avenue to Pechin Street.
"We took a stroll (with the Preservation Alliance), and they fell into love with the first two blocks... We'll be investing in front porches and will also include other parts of the home," he said.
The goal, Calamia said, would be to encourage homeowners to make historically sensitive renovations they may want but haven't gotten around to. An advisory board would approve applications and dole out funds. Residents would have to use contractors approved by the Preservation Alliance in order to receive funds.
"So it has to be original to the building and it has to be something that's going to make an ascetic improvement to the block," he said.
One caveat, he said, is residents will pay at least some portion of the renovation project. The RDC will host an info session April 4 to breakdown application specifics.
Populated with homes from different eras in American history, Lyceum is unique in Roxborough due to is width, centrality, and history. The area, only a few blocks east of the Manayunk Wall, is known for its parades.
"It's really a great place to model historic preservation, but also to look out into the future to see what Lyceum Avenue could be," he said.
For residents and the RDC alike, the grant is a small step in what is to come around Lyceum.
Pezzello moved in almost five years ago, and has run annual cleanups. Every year, he said there's less and less trash to pick up.
"The snowball is rolling. People here are excited about each other and their neighborhood," he said.
On April 4, the RDC will host an info session about the grant application and begin the neighborhood conversation on the future.
"The short plan is part of a longer term goal to look at Lyceum Avenue and to talk to residents to generate ideas for what we want it to be," Calamia said.
Nothing is put to paper yet, and any ideas are welcomed. Calamia mentioned angled parking, landscaping in the center (maybe a green medium), or a bike lane as possibilities, but Lyceum's future is wide open.
"I have the vision what I want this neighborhood to look like. Maybe some people will need a picture to get excited, but I'm already there for this block," Pezzelo said.
And after renovations finish, Calamia said walking tours could take place to introduce Roxborough's history to the city.
The meeting will take place at 5:30 p.m. April 4 at the RDC office, 6111 Ridge Ave.