About Us: Mission, History

Our Mission:

The Bella Vista Neighbors Association (BVNA) improves Bella Vista's quality of life and strengthens community bonds. BVNA encourages civic involvement, provides a neutral and public discussion forum, preserves and augments our institutions and character, supports the delivery of government services, and promotes dialogue with elected officials.  We are an all-volunteer, nonprofit, registered community organization (RCO).

Our Story:

BVNA was originally founded in 1992 and incorporated in 1994 as the Bella Vista Town Watch by a group of concerned citizens in order to be better organized.  Both long-term and newer residents came together to address crime rates, blight, and the lack of basic city services.  BVTW ran active Town Watch patrols, undertook many neighborhood improvement projects, and generally worked to make our neighborhood a safer place to live, work and visit.

Bella Vista Town Watch

As the Bella Vista community was changing, increasingly becoming "the" place to live, and now boasting some of the lowest crime rates in the city, the organization has changed in stride with it.   In 2014, the organization was renamed to the Bella Vista Neighbors Association (BVNA) to better align with the broader purpose and expanded mission.

Public Safety remains a priority, as we host monthly PSA1 meetings for the three encompassing neighborhoods, are active members of both the 3rd PDAC and Friends of South Street Mini-Station, and partner with the district on many crime prevention and community building events.

However, we now also work on a broader scope of issues, including Zoning, Beautification, Events, and partnering with our parks, schools, business corridors, and cultural institutions on many Neighborhood Improvement projects.

E-mail us today to join your neighbors in our commitment to live up to our name, and help make Bella Vista a truly Beautiful View.  Come to the Bella Vista Neighbors Association meetings when they are announced and learn about your community and how you can get involved. Join a committee, take on a single project, help sweep-up your block.  Talk with a board member about how you can help shape the future of Bella Vista.

Bella Vista Town Watch - Distinguished Community Service Award

2003 - Councilman Frank DiCicco - City 0f Philadelphia
2004 - Domenick Lazzaro - Bella Vista Neighbor
2005 - Joseph Cannistraci - BVTW Board
2006 - NA
2007 - Mary Tracy - Scenic America
2008 - Carla Puppin - Bella Vista Neighbor
2009 - Naz Pantaloni - Bella Vista Neighbor
2010 - William Fuller - City of Philadelphia, Palumbo Recreation Center
2011 - Tally Brennan - BVTW Board
2012 - Captain Joseph Bologna - City of Philadelphia Police Department
2013 - Greg Pastore - BVTW President and Zoning

BVNA Distinguished Community Service Award

2014 - Nathan Snyder - BVTW Officer and Communications
2015 - Councilman Mark Squilla - District 1, City Council of Philadelphia
2016 - John Smyth - past BVTW President, Friends of the Police Mini Station
2017 - Ric Hayman - BVTW Treasurer, Meredith HSA, Society Hill Synagogue
2018 - Lisa French, Friends of Nebinger

2019 - Rosemary Capircchio & Elaine Ulmer - Friends of Cianfrani Park

2020 - Sew Face Masks Philadelphia

Every year, the BVNA board recognizes an individual who, through their volunteer efforts, has made a lasting, positive impact on our community.

Our Neighborhood

We are a neighborhood of approximately 7,000, roughly bounded by South Street and Washington Avenue, 6th Street and 11th Street.

Although we are primarily a residential neighborhood, we are fortunate that a number of art galleries, coffee shops, and boutiques have set up shop here. And, two of Philadelphia's liveliest commercial strips, South Street and the 9th Street Market, pass through our boundaries.

It's been that way for decades. The old-timers who still dot the neighborhood - many of whom have long lived on one block; in one house - love sharing reminiscences of newsstands, barber shops, and corner delis long gone. They remember when bambinos played stickball in the streets, and nanas in house dresses swept their sidewalks every day.

That's because the neighborhood is located at the northern-most edge of South Philadelphia, the city's enclave for Italian immigrants. You can still feel a touch of sunny Italia in the air in the heady aromas of garlic and red gravy, of piping hot espresso and just-baked bread.

One of the area's landmarks is closely tied to that immigrant history. It's the Fleisher Art Memorial, which takes as its motif a sprawling Romanesque structure and as its maxim, a mission to help the "world come and learn art." The nation's oldest tuition-free art school, it was founded by the son of German Jewish immigrants to provide art classes to the new immigrants who worked in his factory.

Samuel Fleisher located his informal school in the neighborhood where many of his employees lived. Today, the facility, which includes an art-laden Sanctuary built in the 1880s, offers dozens of classes, and sponsors several art shows each year. Its Sanctuary houses works acquired by Fleisher, including an altarpiece by Violet Oakley. decorative and liturgical objects, an iron gate by Samuel Yellin and a small collection of Russian icons and Oriental carpets.

Located on the 700 block of Catharine Street since 1915, Fleisher is just one vestige of the immigrants' Bella Vista.

Elsewhere, awaits a very active bocce court (10th and Carpenter) and the still-thriving (and, thanks to recent upgrades, better than ever) 9th Street curb market. Familiarly called the "Italian Market," this century-old strip boasts an ever-expanding array of specialty shops, a tantalizing selection of produce (including unfamiliar treats sold by newcomers who have settled the area from Mexico and Vietnam), and several festivals each year.

As newer immigrants have discovered the neighborhood, homebuyers priced out of Center City have also recognized its charms and its still relatively-affordable housing. Bella Vista's recent popularity has resulted in substantial remodeling of the existent housing stock, as well as a slate of more expensive, new infill housing. While the development climate has resulted in the loss of several placeholder community gardens that had sprung up on empty lots, one of the best, survives: Bel Arbor at 10th and Kimball.

And, we remain a neighborhood rich in public parks. These include Palumbo Recreation Center, and Cianfrani, Bardascino, and Palumbo parks.

Bella Vista residents are also fortunate in the wealth of eateries from classic Italian restaurants to coffee shops to trendy dining spots that serve the neighborhood, and the city. Not only are we heralded as the "brunch capital of Philadelphia," but we offer some of the city's oldest restaurants, not to mention some of its most unique (specializing in everything from Italian chocolates to Brittany crepes).

As newcomers have settled the neighborhood, the patter of little feet once again enlivens our streets. To meet the demand, elementary schools like Nebinger, Jackson, Meredith serve our neighborhood along with Christopher Columbus Charter School.

It's a heady time for Bella Vista, a time of exciting changes modified by the steadying influence of tradition and community. We wouldn't have it any other way.

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