After decades of being a vibrant commercial corridor bustling with commerce and charm, the 7100 block of Ogontz Avenue began to decline in the early 1970's. By 1981, Ogontz Plaza, the centerpiece of this once mighty block had become a vacant, graffiti-scarred eyesore. The Ogontz Hall apartment building was plagued with undesirable conditions and many other properties on Ogontz and 72nd avenues were also vacant and dilapidated. Finally, in 1983, the community had had enough. The neighborhood residents, led by State Representative Dwight Evans, banded together to devise a solution for their prevailing problem. That solution came to be known as the Ogontz Avenue Revitalization Corporation (OARC).
Following its inception, OARC worked with elected officials, government agencies, banks, local universities, various organizations and institutions, and formed partnerships with private developers to complete the Ogontz Plaza (1987), the Ogontz Hall (1992) and Ogontz III (1995), helping to restore the corridor to the vibrant, bustling avenue it once was.
More recently, OARC has continued its efforts by expanding its scope and taking a holistic approach to making West Oak Lane a community of choice. This holistic approach has included dozens of programs, initiatives and development projects in the areas of housing development, home improvement, education, business and economic development, workforce development, arts and cultural event planning, open space greening, grass roots community planning, and even tourism development.
OARC has been responsible for the development of dozens of housing units, several of the marquee business institutions of West Oak Lane, the creation of hundreds of jobs in the community and the overall improvement in the quality of life in one of Philadelphia's finest neighborhoods.
Today OARC is taking its nationally-recognized model developed in West Oak Lane and using it to strengthen communities throughout Northwest Philadelphia—a historic and vital part of the city, of which West Oak Lane and the northern end of Ogontz Avenue is a part.
Since its inception, OARC has grown to include ten entities with a total annual operating budget of approximately $25 million and development projects valued at over $24 million. OARC, its related entities and affiliates employ more than 250 people full-time, more than 30 people part-time and serve approximately 1,000 children annually.
Through valuable partnerships and innovative programs, OARC is a fresh wind in the field of community development, proving that no community goal is too ambitious and, in the process, providing hope and inspiration to residents of all communities.