The Penn Avenue Arts Initiative (PAAI)was launched by the Friendship Development Associates in 1998 in collaboration with the Bloomfield Garfield Corporation as a way to revitalize the Penn Avenue Corridor (4800-5500 Penn Avenue) through the arts. Four hundred artists representing the diverse economic, social, and cultural fabric of the surrounding neighborhoods were identified during the 1990s as a strong asset group for the area, and high vacancy and abandonment rates were identified as opportunities in the blighted 10-block area of the Penn Avenue business corridor.
The “Light Bulb Moment” eleven years ago—Using these assets and opportunities to revitalize the Penn Avenue business district and the surrounding neighborhoods! Thus, the PAAI was born. Part of a larger community development strategy, the PAAI intertwines neighborhood, residential, commercial and cultural projects.
In 2006, the Penn Avenue Arts Corridor was designated as a Main Street district. The “Main Street” Program is a countrywide, volunteer driven program created by the National Trust for Historic Preservation to restore cities to bustling and vigorous urban settings. The Main Street Program complements the revitalization efforts already taking place along the avenue through PAAI and serves to further develop Penn Avenue into a diverse and thriving cultural, social, arts and business destination.