By John Loftus

Times Staff Writer

Merchants on the 4600 block of Frankford Ave. should be getting some visitors — if they haven't already.

Michelle Feldman, Frankford Avenue commercial corridor manager, will join Tim Wisniewski, executive director of the Frankford Special Services District, and Jason Dawkins, an aide to City Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez (D-7th dist.), to ask business owners if they'd like to have their buildings pret- tied up.

And pretty much all they have to do, at least initially, is say yes.

The city has $200,000 it is willing to spend on facade improvements along the avenue's 4600 block, said Tracy O'Drain, managing director of the Frankford Community Development Corp.

The block has the greatest concentration of active business on the avenue, she said. Devoting money to spruce up the 4600 block will have the biggest impact on making the business district more attractive, cleaner and safer, O'Drain added.

The theory is that businesses that collectively are more attractive and better lit will attract more customers, and more customers will attract more businesses to the block. Right now, eight stores are vacant.

The improvements will be inexpensive and upgrade building exteriors. For example, old signs and brackets will be removed, and lighting will be improved. If warranted, a building could be painted. No architectural work will be done.

During a meeting of representatives of Frankford groups and city departments last Friday at FCDC offices on Griscom Street, Feldman said she already has commitments from 10 merchants, and she thinks that 10 others are interested in the project.

Merchants would be asked to cover a small percentage of costs. Some businesses are looking good and don't need improvements, but Feldman still wondered whether store owners who said they weren't interested in taking part might have looked at the proposal as too good to be true.

Dawkins and Wisniewski plan to join Feldman in revisiting the business owners to promote the virtues of the proposal.

"Some people will be a harder sell than others," Dawkins said.

Once businesses have signed on, said Karen Lockhart Fegely of the mayor's office, the city will solicit bids for the work and hire a contractor.

Not all of the city's $200,000 will be spent on exterior improvements. About $4,000 will fund a consultant who will help business operators with marketing and merchandising strategies, said Fegely and Sandi King, business services manager for the city's Commerce Department.

Dawkins said he'll have to review businesses that enlist in the program to make sure they're current with payment of real estate taxes, business taxes and water and utility bills.

"We don't normally give awards to businesses that owe taxes," Fegely said.

Participants at last Friday's meeting stressed that the project is just getting started. Fegely also acknowledged that there are a few hurdles to clear — getting permits for lighting improvements, for example.

O'Drain hopes that work on Frankford Avenue's 4600 block will spur more improvements on the business corridor.

"This is not going to stop here," O'Drain said.

Business owners on the 4600 block of Frankford Ave. can get more information by calling Tim Wisniewski, 215-535-2637, or Jason Dawkins, 215-686-3448. The Web site at www.frankfordcdc.com also has more details.

Reporter John Loftus can be reached at 215-354-3110 or jloftus@bsmphilly.com