We're pretty excited here at the corner of Broad and Oxford Streets. Over the last few weeks, we've watched the final demo of the old strip mall Progress Plaza to make way for the new and LONG promised grocery store in North Philadelphia.
Progress Plaza has a long and storied history on North Broad Street. Progress Plaza, the brain child of Leon Sullivan, a Baptist minster, civil right leader and social activist, was the nation's first black-owned and developed shopping center.
It has served as a field trip for the students involved in ITSRG's BITS program as they explore and document their community. One of the students favorite stories about Progress Plaza has been how the Leon Sullivan got the project started in the 1960s.
Sullivan suggested the development of the strip mall to address two major needs he saw in the community. First, the need for black-owned businesses and the need for jobs.
The story goes that when Sullivan approached the chairman of the bank to request a construction loan. He was told that Sullivan needed some equity and to, "think about it," and come back in two, three of four years. Sullivan then presented the chairman with $400,000 in cash raised from the community.
The shocked bank chairman quickly changed his story and told Sullivan he could work with him. The strip mall opened to the community in 1968 and has been home to a variety of stores and community services since its opening.
The story always brings a smile and a laugh to the students faces and a new appreciation for the plaza and the sometimes hidden treasures found in North Philadelphia.
Today, Progress Plaza is currently undergoing a 16-million dollar renovation. The plaza is soon to be anchored by a 42-thousand square foot Fresh Grocer. Earlier this year, it served as a campaign stop for President Obama.
ITSRG - Temple