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South Bronx Stretch Undergoes Commercial Renaissance

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A neighborhood in the South Bronx has been attracting new businesses, and turning the area into a more vibrant place to live and work. NY1's Monica Brown filed the following report.

Pablo Espinal owned a grocery store in Brooklyn for 20 years, before opening a new one in the South Bronx about a year and a half ago.

"It's like we're building a new neighborhood, we're building new relationships with people in the area, with all the community," Espinal noted.

Espinal is one of 26 new business owners in the last three years to flock to a stretch of Southern Boulevard between Westchester Avenue and 174th Street, where a local non profit has been working since 2007 to help bring back businesses to an area that was in decline. WHEDco, the Women's Housing and Economic Development Corporation, formed a merchant's association and found millions of dollars leaked out of the community every year because residents were shopping somewhere else.

"We were able to identify the specific retail categories in this neighborhood that were either lacking or that there weren't enough of. So now we've able to really identify and prospect the right type of business to this neighborhood such as electronics stores, restaurants, shoe stores, children's apparel," said WHEDco Community Development Program Manager Akila Shenoy.

Shenoy says in 2010, the vacancy rate in the area was 24 percent. It's now currently 13 percent.

The group has been attracting mom and pop shops, hosting broker breakfasts and tours, building youth programs, doing cleanups and more. The goal is to make the whole neighborhood more pleasing, so that businesses want to come and stay. Shenoy says it's working, and that even with the steady growth to date, there's a lot more to come.

"This year we anticipate that a new hotel will be opening up on Southern Boulevard. There's also a shopping center that's working on developing their two-story complex on Louis Nine Boulevard and Southern Boulevard," Shenoy said.

For more information, visit southernboulevard.org.

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