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Monday, June 15, 2015

Marketing Norristown Using the Schuylkill River Trail

Last month, the Schuylkill River Trail was named in the top 10 trails in the country. What led our trail to this recognition is our 200 miles of scenic views, stores along the trail, and the new bike share program. We all know, especially Norristonians, that our portion of the trail can be much better to make us the best.

Each weekend, I bike 20 miles on the trail both ways. Saturday I like to go to Phoenixville and Sunday I go the opposite way to Manayunk. Norristown is smacked right in the middle of these two popular locations, however, we can't seem to get bikers off at our stop.

There are two ways to get off the trail in Norristown, with the third being overgrown(Crawford Park). The first point is at Riverfront Park aka Haws Avenue entrance. This point of our park can be used to support the bikers who need to stop for a break in between stops. Pictured above is a closed store on the trail right above Riverfront Park. It doesn't seem to be listed for sale/lease, however, this is prime real estate for a pub, cafe or quick-service restaurant. If anyone could let me know how I can get in contact with the owner, I'd love to see a community cleanup on this part of the trail and get the ball rolling. Conshohocken Brew Company is in the same situation and was packed with bikers. There was actually a problem with not enough room for additional bikes..which is a good problem for them!

The next stop is the Norristown Transportation Center stop. This area is where our businesses on Main Street and DeKalb can really benefit from the traffic. I encourage businesses to seek approval from zoning to allow A-frame or yard signs at this stop directing bikers to their businesses. Also, bike racks need to become more readily available in these areas. If a business knows parking is difficult in their area, they can look to purchase a bike rack and advertise that they have parking available for bikes. Good quality racks begin around $300, but can pay for itself in months with new business. "If you build it, they will come." Sorry, had to throw in a Field of Dreams reference in! 

Signage is also important to let bikers know "hey, we're open for business!" Getting signs at these openings can drive more revenue to our downtown businesses almost instantly. Riverbend Cycles has capitalized on this easy marketing move. They used a colorful A-frame to let the bikers know there is a shop just for them if they need equipment or repairs while riding. Norristown doesn't have a bike shop near the trail, however, there are some open storefronts on Main Street where one should be. Big hint!

Even if it's an event happening that day or soon, a sign reminds pedestrians to take a brake from the trail and stop by. This Farmers' Market sign was placed right on the trail and there was another sign along the trail that reads "Farmers' Market each Sunday." Simple, yet effective!

It's not too late for us to begin making these adjustments to boost traffic along Main Street. Pictured above is the new Lafayette Street corridor project. Not to sound bias, but this part of the trail is my favorite to drive past because of all the possibilities available when this finally opens. Bike traffic is always heavy on this part of the trail between Norristown and Conshohocken..the trail is also freshly paved! Once motorists begin to use this new portion of Lafayette, we can see some benefit to our businesses nearby. Personally, I would hate to see a billboard here because it will take away from the beauty of the historic buildings and factories. I will say that opening this area should encourage those businesses to clean the back of their properties and put their own sign to let motorists know they're open. It's hard to see in this picture, but there is already a "Welcome to Norristown" sign ready for when this street opens. So as another hint to those businesses with overgrown ivy/weeds on the back of their is the time to start preparing and maximizing your curb appeal.

I would love to hear other suggestions on what needs to happen to bring bikers off the trail. There are also several councils and organizations you can join that focus on finding ways to improve the trail. I attended a few and Norristown is not well-represented. If you have free time, I suggest joining one. You can find out more about different groups working on the trail here.
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Friday, June 12, 2015

Arbor Mews Adds Beauty to DeKalb Street

Photo by: Progressive Housing Ventures
For those living in the area, you have seen Arbor Mews go from an abandoned lot with overgrown weeds and dead trees. Today, the construction project led by Progressive Housing Ventures is now on the final phase and half of the homes are purchased. Today, we will share a quick blog about how these 24 homes can transform this neighborhood.

I don't live in this neighborhood, however, I have been involved with Montgomery County OIC a block away for as long as I can remember. For those who are not familiar with the area or the land where Arbor Mews is located, see the picture below. 

Google Maps image from 2013
This is what commuters and residents saw for decades. The trees were beginning to rot, the temp fence was in bad shape, and it was nothing pretty to stare at.

Photo by: Progressive Housing Ventures

Progressive Housing Ventures who also restored Arbor Heights a few blocks away saw the opportunity to convert this vacant lot into homes that can match the area.

These homes are aimed to attract first-time home buyers and millennials which is me. Speaking as a millennial, these townhouses are a fair price and within biking distance of everything necessary to me. A quick bike ride down Arch (I wouldn't recommend DeKalb) will take you right to the Schuylkill River Trail and Norristown Transportation Center. Or, if you want to catch a Summer concert, bike down Fornance Street and you will be there in 5 minutes. One of Norristown's only grocery stores is located a few blocks away as well as some international restaurants. Did I mention how close you are to the Arts Hill and Courthouse? 

I encourage everyone to stop by their open house and check out the new construction for yourself. The Norristown Project is excited for our new neighbors to move in because we will have a community cleanup not too far away from this location. Stay tuned!

*not a sponsored post*

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Monday, June 8, 2015

Norristown's Summer Concert Series

When is the last time you saw live music? For free? If you can't answer that question, this blog is for you. Norristown has an AMAZING Summer Concert Series featuring live music from local bands and musicians. Did I mention the concert is FREE?

For those who know me know that I am really picky when it comes to which concert I want to go to, pay for, sit through, etc.. What makes me attend a concert is the music(obviously) and the experience. I'm not the one that will go to a concert and sit in the nose bleeds and barely see the artist other than on a jumbo-screen. I like the meet & greet experience, close proximity from the stage and a more relaxed setting. Which is why I chose the concerts at Elmwood Park.

Norristown's own Wildflower performed to a packed crowd last Sunday. Their sets were perfect for all ages. They played popular music from today's artists like Bruno Mars and Pharrell Williams as well as popular old school songs from Earth, Wind & Fire and Michael Jackson. 

Residents of all ages were in attendance, and stayed until the end! The energy from the crowd was great and I was satisfied with the amount of support from the community. Yesterday's weather was also perfect for an outdoor concert, I even rode my bike to the concert!

Next week's concert will be Mark Reno (Elvis Impersonator) beginning at 7pm. Each concert begins at 7 at the park with the exception of Music for Kids Sake at the end of the summer. Here is a list of the rest of the performance schedule:

  • JULY 4 12:00 - OLD SCHOOL 6:30 - ALLEN REYNOLDS BAND ( fireworks to follow) 
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Monday, June 1, 2015

Share Norristown via Yelp!

Occasionally, we like to share different ways to change the image of Norristown. I applaud most businesses in Norristown for sticking around and making our town their home. We have many hidden gems in town when it comes to restaurants and other businesses. Positive reviews go a long way to support smaller businesses against the larger retailers surrounding us. So how can Norristown businesses become more marketable?

The easiest way for businesses to spread the message of their food or service is through its customers. I go to American Dental Solutions in East Norriton and each time I'm in there, I am giving a flyer to review them on Yelp. Whether I liked their service or not, it's important to share your sound review on sites like Yelp for other customers to see. This also puts pressure on businesses to increase their level of service...because it's just as easy to write a bad review as it is to write a good one! 

So this is something to consider when you stop for a sandwich at a new spot in Norristown. How did you like your meal? Was your service good? What tips would you like to share? 

As you can see above, some businesses are taking advantage of Yelp for customers to review their food and services. There is also a feature for those business owners to respond to negative reviews and work with the customer to find a solution. Zachary's BBQ uses this feature to interact with fans and make sure their online menu is up to date.

Yelp is also FREE! For a small business, it is important to capitalize on every free marketing opportunity out there. Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, and Instagram are all social media sites that allow you to promote your business for free and gain more fans. Some businesses have not jumped on this opportunity for the lack of knowledge in technology and social media. SM and SEO is still new which creates a learning curve for older business owners. 

Whether you are a business or a customer, I encourage you to use this site when it comes to finding new places in town as well as reviewing your favorite spots. Yelp can be a useful tool to market Norristown's hidden gems and increase traffic at these locations. 

(Disclaimer: Yelp has not paid or asked TNP to write about their site for exposure purposes.)

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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Response: Rethinking Law, Order in Norristown

Today, I wanted to share my response to an article posted on discussing the policing change in Norristown. You may follow the link in the last sentence to read if you haven't already to understand my response.

I would like to first THANK the Norristown Police Department and Chief Talbot for making the effort to reduce crime in Norristown. Everyday it seems like we are waking up to another story of an officer using excessive force on their residents and the lack of trust in other departments. I am happy that Norristown has been proactive in this to increase trust among residents and avoided any major issues in our community we are working hard to bring back. 

Crime in Norristown has gone down, but it's still here...we can not ignore that. This Spring, we have seen three shootings around town which is an increase compared to the same time frame last year. So is crime going back up? I highly doubt it, but it is something that needs to be looked at to prevent this in the future. Typically when the weather gets warm, there is a short spike in overall crime then tapers off. 
On June 3rd, NPD has created an event called "Coffee with a Cop" at Dunkin Donuts on West Main Street. You can view more details on the flyer or visit our community calendar for more information. The timing of the event is tough as is occurs on a weekday and in the morning. I decided to go into work late on this day to have a chance to meet officers in my community and report on what happens at the event. If you are not working, I ask that you attend and introduce yourself to the officers and express any concerns you may have.

On the following week, NPD is hosting a Public COMPSTAT meeting at Montgomery Host Fire Company on Freedley. Information is available in the flyer above or you can view the event on our community calendar. This meeting is an opportunity to see current crime trends in town and how NPD has addressed the issue. This is also an opportunity to see what is being done to reduce crime in Norristown and possibly speak to Chief Talbot and his leadership team. 

I will repeat this again, Norristown Police should be recognized for their proactive approach regarding better policing strategy through community feedback. The police and residents need to work together more to increase trust and reduce major crimes. If the officers begin to know the residents and vice versa, we can see better communication and stronger bond. This has been absent in our community in recent years and it seems as if we may have found a solution. 

Also, I have mentioned many times on TNP's blog and Facebook page for everyone to join Nextdoor. Today a neighbor gave a heads up about a break-in and we were able to reach out to our neighbors instantly to be alert. NPD has stepped up patrol in our area to help. There is also a feature available to cities to join the site to send out alerts immediately via text/email which I hope the Municipality can jump on like other cities around the country.

Norristown Police and residents still have a long way to go before we have 100% trust and no crime in the community. Embrace these first couple of baby steps and let's work together for a better Norristown!

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