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The Belmont Community in West Philadalphia, PA is where Sister Aisamah launched her project. She introduced Aisamah's Originals Collectibles, encouraged by her late husband Sheikh Abdul Malik Muhammad, founder of Showcase Inc. and Showcase Collectibles, to feature her collection at 4255 Lancaster Avenue.

The Philadelphia City Planning Commission defines Belmont as being comprised of census tracts 106 and 107. The neighborhood is bounded by Girard Avenue on the north, Haverford Avenue on the south, 44th St. on the west and 40th St. on the east.

In 2000, with a poverty rate of 42%, Belmont was declared an official poverty area twice over[1].  Once an area of thriving businesses, today Lancaster Avenue between 40th and 44th Streets is in a state of visible decline. 

There are approximately 70 businesses in the Belmont section of Lancaster Avenue, seven of which are restaurants and the others are engaged in personal services and the sale of apparel, jewelry, furniture, hardware, groceries and electronics. None of the businesses represent national franchises or outlets of national chains. A listing of many of these businesses is available at here.

Several factors contribute to the economic and physical decline of the business corridor.

  • The streetscape is physically unattractive to potential shoppers. 
  • The economic base of surrounding households is far too small to support a diversified commercial strip. 
  • While the avenue is widely used by suburban commuters traveling to workplaces in downtown Philadelphia, very few of them stop here to shop. 
  • The University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University are adjacent to Belmont; however students from these universities avoid the neighborhood, as the area is considered unsafe. 

Away from the Lancaster Avenue business corridor, Belmont is an area of residential streets.  The landscape of the residential streets presents stark contrasts.  Well-maintained houses with neatly trimmed hedges and porches with potted plants stand next to vacant lots and burnt out structures that are literally falling apart.  There are many rubble strewn empty lots, but not all are that way. 

Some residents have fought back to reclaim these spaces with gardens growing vegetables and flowers.  In fact the group of neighborhoods north of Market Street and East of 52nd Street to which Belmont belongs contain more private and community gardens than any comparable area of the entire county of Philadelphia (Hu, 2003).[3] 

Belmont is a community of opposites. The contrasts in the physical landscape mirror what exists in the social world - hope, love, kindness, and faith reside side-by-side with despair, cynicism, anger, and crime.

Sister Muhammad insures that the Belmont Community is among the collective communties, bridged by the Lancaster Avenue Business District, targeted for Neighborhood Transformation. The area communities are Powelton, Mantua, Mill Creek, Cathedral & Carroll Park, and Overbrook. Business and residential re-development show great potential for social and economic change.


[1] US Census 2000.

[2] Hu, Emmalyne, "Using Computer Mapping for Community Development in Belmont-Mantua", Honors thesis, Schreyer Honors College, Pennsylvania State University, 2003.

Map created by InfoResouces of the University of Pennsylvania (http://westphillydata.library.upenn.edu/infoR_Neigh_Belmont.htm)

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