SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. /California Newswire/ — On Tuesday, S.F. Mayor Edwin M. Lee and District 5 Supervisor Christina Olague today celebrated the arrival of seven new businesses in the Fillmore, announced a dramatic 21 percent decrease in the vacancy rate from 35 percent to 14 percent in the Fillmore and highlighted several City programs aimed at continuing the momentum in the Fillmore.

Standing at the historic African-American bookstore Marcus Books, Mayor Lee and Supervisor Olague announced that the City is also partnering with merchants and property owners to improve the storefronts of 23 businesses from McAllister to Post Streets and is initiating a neighborhood marketing and events program aimed at celebrating the Fillmore’s culture and history and driving additional foot traffic to the area.

“With new businesses, storefront improvements, events programming and the leadership of business owners and the community, today there is renewed energy and optimism in the Fillmore, one of our City’s great historic neighborhoods,” said Mayor Lee. “We still have much work to do, but the dramatic drop in commercial vacancies and the progress we are seeing in the Fillmore demonstrates the promise of our Invest in Neighborhoods strategy to transform our neighborhood commercial corridors through targeted City and community resources, assistance and leadership. I want to thank Supervisor Olague for her tireless efforts since taking office to champion the needs of the Fillmore and bring new resources and focused attention to the neighborhood.”

“As we gear up for Small Business Month in May, we have a great opportunity to highlight The Fillmore’s thriving business community,” said Supervisor Olague. “I am thrilled to support the diverse merchants in the Jazz District, many of whom have been here for decades, as well as newcomers who see the limitless potential in this growing corridor.”

Three new businesses – State Bird Provisions, The Social Study café and wine bar, and 1307 Gallery, a multi-media space in the Fillmore Center owned by two local Fillmore residents – opened in late 2011 and early 2012. State Bird Provisions has already made the San Francisco Chronicle’s Top 100 Restaurants. Hapa Ramen and Prime Dip will open in the end of May, and Progress and City Grange restaurants, will open in Fall 2012.

Progress will be the second project of the owners of State Bird and will be located two doors down. City Grange will be a second project of the owners of Phat Angel, also in the Fillmore. Hapa Ramen is a food truck that will make its first permanent home on Fillmore. Prime Dip is expanding from its first location on Larkin Street to the Fillmore. The City has been working with property owners since 2010 to diversity the business mix in the area and fill vacancies, and has provided financial and technical assistance to many of the new entrepreneurs.

The City’s investment in the Fillmore builds on efforts by the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency to restore the area as a cultural center for African Americans and for music and entertainment in the aftermath of Urban Renewal. The Redevelopment Agency’s investments led to new development and anchor businesses such as Yoshi’s, 1300 on Fillmore, Sheba Lounge and Rassela’s. The City’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD) has continued to build on these investments by implementing initiatives aimed at supporting long-time Fillmore businesses; providing resources for area residents who wish to start their own businesses; bringing in new neighborhood-serving businesses; and activating the street with festivals and other events that showcase the culture of the district. OEWD’s Fillmore work started in early 2010 and has shown a decrease from 35 percent vacancy rate to 14 percent, showing a declining change of 21 percent.

Today’s Fillmore merchant walk coincides with the recent kick-off of the Mayor Lee’s new Invest in Neighborhoods initiative, which will coordinate the City’s many programs and neighborhood resources to make targeted improvements in key neighborhood commercial districts.

In each participating commercial district, City services—including business retention and attraction programs, community planning activities, cleaning, greening and beautification services, public safety programs, and neighborhood art projects—will be deployed in a focused, customized manner that responds to the corridor’s unique challenges and opportunities. Invest in Neighborhoods will create infrastructure to leverage programs like the Small Business Revolving Loan Fund, which Mayor Lee recently recapitalized with $1 million with unanimous support from the Board of Supervisors.