PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Tucked away from the Germantown traffic, where the loudest sound is melting snow, the historic Maplewood Mall is ready for its renaissance.
"The area is just a lot better than it was. It was hard to get in and hard to get out," said Abdul Maalik Akbar, who has been shopping at the Philadelphia mall for more than 40 years.
This little block between Germantown Ave. and Greene St. is lined with small businesses, like Maplewood Nutrition Dietary Food Shop that's been there since 1963.
"We've always done well because our customers are resilient and they made it through, even when there was construction here," said Al Ciment, the owner.
The construction started in fall 2019. The city spent $3.3 million to give the mall a new street, sidewalks, lights, and tables.
"Every neighborhood in the city should have a nice place where they can go visit, where they can go shop, where they can go hang out," said Matt Wysong, a senior planner with the Philadelphia City Planning Commission.
One of those hangout spots is Germantown Espresso Bar.
"Every morning you could find anywhere from five to a dozen or more people having a conversation about our city, our neighborhood," said Miles Butler, who owns the shop. He grew up five minutes away. His dad worked on the mall. Opening a business here was his dream, but COVID, coupled with construction, all but eliminated the traffic.
"So many people didn't know that this block existed," said Erica Johnson, who owns Collective Artistry a few blocks down. She lives on the mall and opened her plant store during the pandemic. She says she's sharing her gift.
The street itself is done but the project isn't over. The city's next plan is for the plazas on each end, where it's going to turn the walls into public art.
"We want people to come and show that there is a difference in Philadelphia than what you hear on the nightly news, that people do care," said Johnson.
The city says it will likely start taking applications for the public art project in May.