The East Falls Development Corp.’s new Director hits the ground running.

So who’s the new face of the East Falls business district? We hear that question all the time about the new Executive Director of the EFDC, Kathleen Hogan. Depending on who’s asking the question, it can be a compliment or a curse. Funny thing, people get kinda passionate about development around here.

To her credit, Kathleen’s not hiding in her office – she’s been reaching out to neighbors and businesses as part of her “listening tour.” She’s played quizzo at Murphy’s, shopped and invited friends to Vault and Vine, and grabbed a bite at InRiva’s, Fiorino’s, Slices’ and Shan Chuan’s.

Despite her outreach she’s also had quite a few visitors to her new office. It’s one of the biggest surprises of the new job – “People are just so passionate about this community. They’ll stop by the office to tell me why we need a waterfront promenade or a Main Street type retail district.”

No matter how she gets feedback, she loves to learn things on the ground. It’s a skill she fine-tuned as a USAID worker in El Salvador in the 90s. “It was just sink or swim,” she said. “It wasn’t a diplomatic position, which tend to be more insular. As a contractor, you were required to figure it out. Get the facts as best you can and go from there. Which will be in part, the requirement of this position, but luckily given the rich community involvement and historical documentation by the EFDC, I won’t be starting from scratch.”

It’s early yet, but one thing’s for sure. Her primary focus will be business development on Ridge and Midvale Avenues. “Small business development is my strongest skill set,” she said, referring to her experience as a founder of two children’s clothing stores in Chicago. “I’ve seen the process from the inside, from both an online and bricks and mortar perspective.”

Despite living in Chestnut Hill, she’s decided that the answer for the business corridor can’t be a Chestnut Hill “main street” model. “You can’t just transplant that to the Falls,” she said, “on some level it might replicated, but there has to be a more unconventional approach as well.”

Although she doesn’t have all the answers yet, she likes the progress made by her predecessor. “Vault and Vine, LeBus, and Famous 4th Street is a pretty good start,” she said. “I’m hoping to bring people together to figure out where we can go from here.”

Fast Facts

Born: Detroit, MI

Family: She is married with 2 children, 16 and 20 years old.

Hobbies: Biking, rowing, and baseball (Cubs – WORLD CHAMPION CUBS! — and Tigers). She’s also a foodie.

Great way to spend a day: I love biking around Philadelphia and its environs. So many sights, stores, and little restaurants to duck into. When I lived in Chicago, it wasn’t nearly as bike friendly. It’s beautiful, but how many times can you bike along Lake Michigan?

Best business decision: We migrated our clothing store in Chicago online before the ‘08 crash. So many fellow entrepreneurs and friends got wiped out almost overnight. Nobody was insulated. I attribute our early switch online to the young women I was working with. I saw the way they were shopping online before many large stores had gotten into e-commerce.

Interesting insight: Philadelphians are far more friendly than Chicagoans. Few Philadelphians believe me, but it’s true. Philadelphians are very welcoming to transplants but Chicago is a city with very tight-knit communities that can be difficult to crack for new residents. Funny thing is people here love Chicagoans – whenever my friends visit, they get such a warm welcome.

Quick Quotes
For the Dance on the Falls Bridge (her first as EFDC Director): 

We are very proud of this year’s Dance on the Falls Bridge! We earnestly listened to last year’s guests’ experiences and strived to ‘right’ last year’s ‘wrongs’ by streamlining the beverage and entry lines and providing a more enhanced guest experience! We think the end result was a magical and fun-filled night for all! A huge thank you to all of our sponsors and guests for making this event so special every year.

About the big river landing grant from the William Penn Foundation and other EFDC initiatives: 

We want to thank the William Penn Foundation for their generous funding (over $230,000) and support of the East Falls river landing. We are thrilled about the future construction of the river landing with its completion date set for 2019. Other projects and initiatives supported by the EFDC that the community be unaware of are the storm water retention bump-outs on Queen Lane, the Watershed Wizards after school program at the Mifflin School, East Falls Farmer’s Market and of course, the annual Dance on the Falls Bridge.

Contact Kathleen
Got an idea for development? Want to get involved in a committee to improve the Falls? Just want to say hi?  Contact Kathleen at the EFDC office (4133 Ridge Ave. #1) or call 215-848-8084