Putting the ‘nice’ back in Nicetown

For years, Nicetown resident Nikki Bagby has heard people talk about her community as a place to leave, but that’s gradually changing with a flurry of new development.

This past weekend, the Nicetown CDC held its annual “Give Back to the Community Festival,” which generally celebrates residents. But this year, residents had something to celebrate in a neighborhood dealing with high crime and the loss of industry.

More than 80 affordable housing units are expected to come from current and planned construction, and Temple Physicians will lease more than 2,300 square feet of commercial space in one of the buildings. But the centerpiece of development is SEPTA’s $30 million renovation of the Wayne Junction station — a major hub for Regional Rail riders.

“It’s been a miracle,” said Bagby, 39, a longtime resident. “Anytime you take a blighted community … and help them change their mindset economically, socially and mentally, it helps them appreciate things and feel a sense of wealth.”

Majeedah Rashid, chief operating officer of the Nicetown CDC, said Kenny Gamble’s Universal Companies has been a major partner in the rebuilding, but their efforts have also attracted interest from outside entities like Community Builders Group, a national nonprofit organization.

There is also an effort to rehabilitate some of the community’s existing housing stock, Rashid said.

“We can’t build new stuff with already existing stuff looking crazy,” she said.

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