If there's one thing we need to do better here in Norristown, it's connect the dots.
Last night, a couple friends and I had dinner at Zachary's BBQ (on Markley St., at Astor Shopping Center). Quick plug for a local eatery--authentic Southern comfort food, right here in Norristown. Food's amazing, service is fast, the staff goes out of their way to help you, and the chef even comes out to chat. And for people like me, a lot of their offerings are gluten-free.
As we sat and ate, we had a view of Logan Square across the street. Frankly, it's not a very inviting view.
Still, as my friends and I sat there, we starting connecting the
dots--what is in that neighborhood that's positive? Who are the
potential customers that might patronize Logan Square and Astor Shopping
1. The Sears building has been refurbished, and now
looks like a modern office building. The architecture's interesting, and
the building has green certification (meaning it's environmentally
efficient). US Maintenance moved their corporate headquarters into it,
bringing 800 jobs to town. All potential lunch customers.
Rittenhouse Apartments, on the other side of USM, is filled with
seniors who'd benefit from more stores within walking distance, and
safer access to them. I have a cousin who lives there, and everytime she
wants to get something at Family Dollar, she takes her life into her
hands trying to cross Logan Square's lot, then Markley St.
place in Norristown brings more visitors to town than anywhere else:
Elmwood Park Zoo. How can we entice those visitors to stay a bit longer
in town and spend money?
So here was our vision:
-- Work something out with the apartments across from the Zoo, to
convert their blocked drive into a pretty lane and walkway from the Zoo
to Astor Shopping Center. We already have Zachary's, Rita's Water Ice,
and El Primo Produce, that offers Mexican street food there. We have a
gas station that would benefit from tourist trade. Via Veneto's Pizza
will be returning to the area. Jomar's big empty store could become
something like Reading Terminal Market in Philly--a variety of
vendors--especially anything that might appeal to tourists (souvenirs,
artisans, a bakery, other foods). Create a partnership with the
zoo--coupon books for the businesses to be handed out with zoo
admission, zoo promotions handed out at the Astor businesses, maybe
Logan Square, too.
Phase 3--A new facade for the part of Logan
Square along Markley, high enough to hide Impact's roof and the things
on the roof above Sessano. Fix up the walkway between Rite-Aid and
Impact and get some tenants into those shops. Continue the parking lot
facade along Johnson Hwy. Redo the facades of the empty buildings
between Plymouth Produce and the street.
So that was our Southern
BBQ-induced vision for those blocks. It might not be the right vision,
but I think we came at it from the right angle: starting with potential
customers and connecting the dots from there--tying together the
landscape in a common goal. All the local businesses I mentioned above are worth promoting, but right now they're like buoys bobbing in a vast ocean. We need to create one big, connected, shopping and food destination for the North
Let me know what you think, but more importantly, share your visions for other parts of town.