February 28, 2016
After a decade of work to obtain financing and approval, Philadelphia-based People's Emergency Center officially broke ground earlier this month on the construction of 20 affordable housing units for artists in West Philadelphia.
The social justice advocacy group, a provider of resources and training for families in need, will move forward with the $7.2 million renovation of a vacant lot at 4050 Haverford Avenue.
RELATED ARTICLE: Penn receives $1.4 million CDC grant for West Philly Promise Zone
PZS Architects will lead the design of the three-story building, which will include one-, two- and three-bedroom units available to residents whose income is 20, 50 and 60 percent of the median income in the area.
“This project adds affordable housing stock that encourages long-term community residents to enjoy the benefits unique to the Lower Lancaster Avenue neighborhoods of Belmont, Mantua, Mill Creek, Saunders Park and West Powelton," said Kira Strong, PEC Vice President of Community and Economic Development.
In an interview with The Daily Pennsylvanian, Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, who serves much of West Philadelphia, praised the project as an opportunity to improve the neighborhood and sustain residents who would not otherwise be able to afford living there.
“This building will help the area physically look nicer and be nicer,” Blackwell said. “It will help bring the artists together. And it will also be low-income housing so it will help people who would otherwise have trouble. Overall, it’s going to be great for the community.”
To date, PEC has constructed 250 housing units and invested $65 million in neighborhood revitalization projects across Philadelphia. The buildings are occupied by individuals with special needs, mental and physical health issues and substance abuse issues. They have also served as homes for women transitioning from shelters.
At 4050 Haverford, the commitment to artists came from members of the community who viewed the project as a way to preserve local culture amid the expansion of medical facilities and university development, said PEC president Kathleen Desmond. To support artists' needs, the Haverford Ave. units will be constructed with high ceilings, studio space and plenty of natural sunlight. There will also be a community room for exhibitions, workshops and classes.
Construction is expected to be completed by December 2016.