Roxborough: A bullseye for families, businesses, and Target

The Tavern on Ridge opened in February where the Cornerstone Inn had been.

Little Roxborough - 40,000 in population and 5.5 square miles in size - took a victory lap last month.

The announcement July 7 that it was selected for one of four "flexible format" Target stores within the city limits blew up social media - 300 shares on Facebook and about 50,000 views of the online post, said James Calamia, executive director of the Roxborough Development Corp. (RDC).

"It's incredible so many folks have moved into this area," he said. "They have their own set of needs and wants, and it's not exactly the right products and services to match those needs. That's why landing a Target was a shot in the arm."

Call it retail gentrification - when retailers move in to give a place like Roxborough a lift, with new culture (an arts scene), entertainment, dining, and not the least, better shopping options.

Dan Histon, lead broker for Manayunk and Roxborough at commercial real estate firm MSC Retail Inc., has been an integral part of the changes.

He works closely with Calamia at the RDC to make sure they share the same vision for the neighborhood. Histon seeks out retailers that he feels might be a good fit for the neighborhood's changing demographics.

A few stats tracked by MSC that are drawing families to the 19128 zip code: Roxborough has one of the lowest violent-crime rates in the city; median household income is $85,000; and each day about 23,000 cars travel along Ridge Avenue, Roxborough's commercial spine.

Histon, 66, a 30-year veteran, has closed a number of deals on Ridge Avenue over the last three years - including Roxborough Read & Eat (a bookstore and coffee shop), Halcyon Floats (an isolation float tank), and Philly Gainz (a protein/fitness nutrition store).

"This place is waiting to happen, it's just been sitting here," Histon said. "It is the geographic center of the city because you have the Main Line, Center City, Chestnut Hill, and Northeast Philly. We are 15 minutes from everything, and public transportation is excellent."

Santucci's Pizza, which has locations at 10th and Christian Streets in South Philly, and at 655 N. Broad St., is close to signing a deal for its third venue, at 6166 Ridge Ave.

Histon said a pair of food trucks are currently looking at Pocket Park at 6170-6172 Ridge Ave., after a half-million-dollar investment by the city on upgrades to the site that will house live music and renovation of its 180-space parking lot.

"It's definitely a more upscale crowd moving in," Histon said. "Roxborough is getting yuppified. The newcomers "are older than the Manayunk crowd. They are having kids. They are done with partying and are starting to use Ridge Avenue as a service district."

A survey of 650 residents last year by RDC showed they wanted three things, and in this order: a brew pub, a BYOB, and a Target.

"It emboldened our efforts to go after those other pieces," Calamia said.

Free parking lots were added.

"The good news in Roxborough is we have addressed parking issues and are prepared to handle a lot more traffic," Histon said. "People have realized that they can move up to Roxborough from Manayunk and buy a twin home, as opposed to a newer home in Manayunk, for the same price. You get more for your money."

Target spokeswoman Kristy Welker said the number of families moving into Roxborough made it ideal. Shop owners are seeing the same thing, too.

"I looked in Fishtown, Port Richmond, South Street, and Girard Avenue for a site, and this was the most affordable," said Arizona transplant Mandy Rogers-Kravetz, owner of Beggar's Banquet Vintage - a clothing and home-goods boutique at 6011 Ridge Ave. The 800-square-foot store opened eight weeks ago across from a Starbucks and next door to Ollie's Barber Shop.

"We've had a lot of people coming in," she said. "The reception has been great."

Philadelphia Folk Song Society just bought a church at Roxborough and Ridge Avenues to turn into an 8,000-square-foot indoor/outdoor venue for music studios and class space.

Opening next month is High Point Coffee, a 2,500-square-foot space for live music, at 6182 Ridge Ave.

"I've got Philly covered with this store and one in Fishtown," said Keri Rakickas, 34, owner of Halcyon Floats, which opened a year and a half ago at 6068 Ridge Ave, and offers a de-stressing service for $65 a float.

Roxborough Development Corp., an advocate for one of 14 business improvement districts in Philadelphia, manages efforts to keep the neighborhood clean and initiatives to attract business.

Joe DeCandido is an RDC board member and president of Advent - an advertising, events, and entertainment company - that produces three festivals a year for Roxborough.

"Each one keeps growing every year," he said, including Roxtoberfest which is planned for Oct. 1, as a one-day street festival on Ridge Avenue. The event is doubling its footprint this year and expected to draw 12,000. "I see a big difference in people's excitement and support of these events."

DeCandido is counting on a new festival sponsor next year: The new Target is scheduled to open in March 2017. "Target was a huge win," he said. "Although there's one on City Avenue, people in Roxborough aren't necessarily crossing [Interstate] 76."

sparmley@phillynews.com

215-854-4184@SuzParmley