PASSYUNK AVENUE REVITALIZATION CORPORATION
“I hate to think how difficult this job would be…”


 PARC-Sherman.jpg
Sam Sherman
Executive Director

Say “South Philly” to most people and it evokes images of Philadelphia’s rich, urban tradition of neighborhood-based family businesses and ethnic enclaves: The Italian Market. Cheesesteaks. Rocky Balboa. The musical heritage of Bobby Rydell, Fabian, Frankie Avalon and Eddie Fisher. The commercial corridor linking this uniquely vibrant neighborhood is Passyunk Avenue, a bustling mile-long ribbon of activity that cuts diagonally across this tightly-knit community.

As with so many urban corridors, Passyunk Avenue has seen both good and lean times. When Sam Sherman was named executive director of the Passyunk Avenue Revitalization Corp., “I inherited a bookkeeping mess,” he says. The predecessor organization, Citizens Alliance for Better Neighborhoods, had come under unprecedented investigative scrutiny. Sherman’s first challenge was to attempt to make sense of an impenetrable tangle of financial records for the numerous for- and non-profit organizations operating under the Alliance’s umbrella. Identifying and assessing the many commercial and residential rental properties in the Alliance’s inventory, liquidating those that were no longer viable, and extinguishing the for-profit components became what he calls an enormous accounting “nightmare.”

Today, PARC is a credible, flourishing nonprofit, striving to become self-sustaining by strategically acquiring commercial and residential real estate assets without having to rely on government funding. More than a community development corporation or an improvement district, PARC’s focus is community revitalization, cleaning and greening the South Philadelphia neighborhood. PARC is renovating, restoring and investing in properties to improve “The Avenue” and strengthen its retail environment.

Rental rates are deliberately kept low so as to encourage locally-owned and start-up businesses: almost all of PARC’s commercial tenants live in the neighborhood and walk to work (if they don’t live upstairs). “This takes sustainability to a whole new level,” says Sherman, sitting in refurbished offices in the heart of the heart of South Philly.

“The Avenue” is rapidly experiencing a rebirth and becoming a new urban mecca, a nexus of hip eateries and inexpensive housing sought by young professionals. PARC has renovated a public fountain and square, planted trees and started beautification projects, providing services that the city is no longer able to offer.

The public is taking notice: it’s not often that urban planners refer to a block as “curated,” but that’s how the Philadelphia Gay News described PARC’s stunning scene of a restaurant row and its chef-driven approach to keeping cities safe, fun, fascinating, and clean.

Your Part-Time Controller was one of Sherman’s first contacts when he took over PARC, and he has been immensely satisfied ever since. “A good accountant is as necessary as a good doctor or a good lawyer,” he says.

YPTC Associate Jill Emerson, CPA, stepped in immediately to make sense of it all. “She helped us wrap our minds around our accounting, showed us how to streamline the organization, untangled the entities that had existed under the Alliance, and reduced the confusion,” he says.

As a result, PARC has sold or is in the process of selling off the assets formerly owned by the Alliance’s for-profit subsidiaries, systems are being streamlined, procedures are codified, and mechanisms for control and transparency are in place. “Auditing used to eat up enormous resources and take months,” Sherman says. “This year it only took two or three weeks.

“Jill has been able to organize things and put some sense into it,” he says. “I like working with her. She’s smart, organized and knows her stuff. I’m not an accountant: my eyes start to bleed when I look at financial statements. YPTC frees up my time so I can concentrate on building the organization and connecting with the neighborhood. I wouldn’t want to think about how difficult this job would be if I had to spend hours a day doing accounting. She makes it look easy.”



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