In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, and during demonstrations fighting injustice in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, the shops on the 52nd Street corridor—just a few blocks from Penn’s campus—have taken a substantial hit. In an effort to help ease business owners’ burden, Penn has contributed $100,000 to The Enterprise Center specifically to help restoration along the important commercial street.
Glenn Bryan, the assistant vice president of community relations in Penn’s Office of Government and Community Affairs, grew up in the neighborhood surrounding the corridor, historically known as West Philadelphia’s Main Street. He was out with the community immediately after the protests, helping to clean up.
“A lot of it—about 80 percent of the businesses—were damaged badly,” Bryan says, noting that he fears some of the businesses may not be able to rebound. “With all that has been going on, it’s been a very difficult time financially for these businesses.”
The Enterprise Center was founded in the late-1980s with strong Wharton ties. Its purpose then, as it is now, was to better connect entrepreneurial training and consulting to aspiring minority entrepreneurs in Philadelphia. The Center has grown and evolved under the leadership of Della Clark, who helped spearhead affiliates The Enterprise Center Community Development Corporation, sparking community revitalization; and The Enterprise Center Capital Corporation, providing debt and equity capital for businesses to grow and succeed.
The Enterprise Center has also maintained a specific 52nd Street Initiative to boost businesses—short- and long-term—along the corridor. Because of this, Bryan says the Center has been the sole manager of the funding from Penn.
“It’s an unprecedented situation,” Bryan says. “We’re responding, and 52nd Street and The Enterprise Center are Penn’s valued partners. These are small businesses that were affected, not large scale; we’re talking about businesses already impacted by COVID-19.”
It’s a vibrant corridor,” Bryan continues. “It meets the community’s needs, and it is an important corridor for the University for those reasons.”
This donation to The Enterprise Center came as Penn also contributed emergency financial support to employees in need ($1 million), the PHL COVID-19 Fund ($500,000), third-party full-time and part-time contract workers ($1 million), independently-owned retail tenants ($1.2 million in rent abatements), and University City small businesses ($250,000).