The heart of the Northeast

Walk this way: (From left) Mike Scotese, Luka Lakuriqi, Sam Siegel and Joe DeFelice stroll across Cottman Avenue in Mayfair. MARIA YOUNG / TIMES PHOTO

When the Mayfair Community Development Corporation and Mayfair Business Improvement District were looking to hire executive directors, there was plenty of talent to choose from, including resumes from out-of-state applicants.

In the end, the CDC hired Luka Lakuriqi and the BID chose Sam Siegel.

Both men are looking forward to the challenge.

“This opportunity came up, and I’m really, really excited about it,” Siegel said. “There are a lot of assets we’re looking to market.”

“Mayfair is a vibrant community. It has every recipe to be an ideal place,” Lakuriqi said.

The Mayfair CDC has been a longtime presence in the neighborhood and was at its peak when state Rep. John Perzel was helping fund it as majority leader and speaker.

Highlights included construction of a large community center, management of the Devon Theater, rehabilitation of declining houses, ownership of a deli, street cleanings, renovation of the old Manor Bar and opening a small park near Frankford Avenue and Wellington Street.

Perzel, though, lost power after the 2006 election, and a general downturn in the economy hurt the CDC.

The CDC, with about $1,000 in the bank, bounced back in 2013, thanks to a partnership with Al-legheny Iron and Met-al Corp., which provides $85,000 a year in exchange for city tax credits. CDC board member Tom Forkin worked with Allegheny’s Bill McKeown on the Business Income and Receipts Tax initiative.

“That’s been very beneficial,” said CDC chairman Joe DeFelice.

The CDC has had several executive directors in the last few years, but DeFelice heralds Lakuriqi’s hiring as a “brand new start.”

One exciting ongoing project, DeFelice said, is the conservatorship program. The CDC has worked with the city and state to rehabilitate three decaying residential properties, with a home on Ryan Avenue being its fourth.

The CDC will also assist ongoing improvement to Mayfair Memorial Playground, and is in discussions to bring a dog park to a portion of Abraham Lincoln High School, near Ryan Avenue and Sackett Street.

Meanwhile, the BID is new. City Council passed legislation creating the district, and Mayor Michael Nutter signed it before leaving office.

BIDs have been successful in places such as East Passyunk, Chestnut Hill, Roxborough, Manayunk, Old City, Center City, Aramingo Avenue and University City.

The Mayfair BID boundaries are generally Frankford Avenue, from Harbison Avenue to Sheffield Avenue; the 3500 and 4000 blocks of Cottman Ave.; the Mayfair Shopping Center; the 3500 block of Ryan Ave.; and the 4000 block of Robbins Ave.

Siegel said the BID will handle marketing and events; make improvements to lighting, signage and landscaping; work with Capt. Anthony Luca, new commander of the 15th Police District; and employ Ready, Willing and Able to sweep streets and empty trash cans three days a week.

Jim Berghaier, a longtime CDC employee, will continue to clean around the so-called “Lincoln Loop,” the 2.5-mile stretch used by walkers and runners.

Under the BID, 320 commercial properties make annual payments to support its efforts. There was very little objection from merchants, who pay based on what their properties are assessed.

The minimum yearly payment is $365.

“You get at least a dollar a day benefit being part of the endeavor,” Siegel said.

Mike “Scoats” Scotese, owner of the Grey Lodge Pub and chairman of the BID, said committees will determine how funds are spent.

Everything will be transparent, with Siegel holding open office hours on Monday afternoons at the Grey Lodge. Scotese joked that Siegel has been given three years worth of work in his first couple of months on the job.

Looking ahead, Scotese is excited about the BID’s potential over the next five years.

“There are a lot of things we can do and a lot of years to do it. Not everything has to be done in year one,” he said. “I want to live in a village. I want to be able to walk to places, see and know people and be part of where I live.”

DeFelice, Scotese and other neighborhood activists have volunteered their time for years on projects such as the Mayfair May Fair, Fallen Heroes Run, Farmers Market and Christmas Village. Now, they have a new full-time BID director in Siegel, a native of Binghamton, New York who has worked in San Francisco in city and museum planning and most recently as a policy analyst for the Philadelphia Department of Commerce. He’ll use social media and other avenues to try to make Mayfair a regional destination.

“It’s the heart of the Northeast,” he said.

And they have a new CDC director in Lakuriqi, a Mayfair resident by way of Albania, who studied architecture and design at Portland State University. Having grown up on Vista Street and attended Austin Meehan Middle School and Abraham Lincoln High School, he has a special interest in his job.

“If you’re going to improve a neighborhood, why not improve the neighborhood you live in,” he said. “We don’t want to lose Mayfair’s charm. It has a small-town feel in a big city. You can walk out of your house and walk to a store for whatever you need. You can do that in Mayfair.”

DeFelice, Scotese and other volunteers from the Mayfair Civic Association, Business Association and Town Watch will continue to assist the BID and CDC.

“We’re always going to work together. We want to become a better Mayfair,” DeFelice said. “We have some great businesses that have been here a long time. A vibrant commercial corridor can only help the residential.”

Scotese said Lakuriqi and Siegel have hit the ground running in their new jobs.

“There are a lot of great things going on in Mayfair,” he said, “and this is an exciting new chapter.” ••

Pride of the neighborhood: The Mayfair Community Development Corporation and Mayfair Business Improvement District are working to improve the neighborhood through rehabilitation of declining houses, street cleanings, and improvements to lighting, signage and landscaping, among other initiatives. Pictured are (from left) Mayfair BID executive director Sam Siegel, BID chairman Mike Scotese, Mayfair CDC executive director Luka Lakuriqi and CDC chairman Joe DeFelice. MARIA YOUNG / TIMES PHOTO