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July 20, 2017

Amid gentrification fear, approvals bring 33 new affordable homes to Point Breeze

Development Affordable Housing
point breeze homes Women’s Community Revitalization Project/Mamie Nichols Homes

A rendering of the Mamie Nichols Homes on Taylor Street in Point Breeze.

The Philadelphia Zoning Board of Adjustment approved plans for 33 new affordable apartments and townhomes to be built in a vacant Point Breeze lot, after receiving wide community support for the development.

The new units, dubbed the Mamie Nichols Townhomes, are part of the Women’s Community Revitalization Project, which develops homes for low-income women and their families. The homes are named after the founder and executive director of the Point Breeze Federation, who worked to revitalize the neighborhood. Nichols died at age 91 in 2009.

In the ever-growing Philadelphia real estate market, Point Breeze has been consistently ranked as one of the target neighborhoods for growth, with Zillow naming it the top Philly neighborhood – predicting a 12 percent increase in housing costs – in its 2017 home value forecast.

The growth in Point Breeze is a divisive issue for the community, however. In 2015, the tensions came to a head when a pop-up summer beer garden illuminated many of the disparities felt by long-time residents as younger, wealthier people moved into the area.

“Point Breeze has a tremendous need for more affordable housing,” said Nora Lichtash, executive director at WCRP, in a statement. “We’re proud to be in a position to help meet that need for the families and veterans who will occupy the homes of Mamie Nichols someday soon.”

Women’s Community Revitalization Project/Mamie Nichols Homes

Rendering of the Mamie Nichols Homes on Capitol Street in Point Breeze.

Max Weisman/Google Maps

The current lot at 1400-1428 South Taylor Street in Point Breeze, where the new homes will be built.

Though developers like John Longacre, who spearheaded the pop-up beer garden and forged plans to create the micro-neighborhood Newbold within Point Breeze's parameters, meet ongoing zoning disapprovals and community outrage, the neighborhood has nonetheless continued its trajectory of rapid change and real estate growth.

“This neighborhood has experienced a lot of change over the years, and we’ve seen it first-hand,” Raymond Pescatore, president and CEO of Citizens Acting Together Can Help (CATCH), a long-running Point Breeze community organization, said in a statement. CATCH is also the established provider of supportive housing and services for disabled veterans and residents with special needs.

“This project is about uniting new and old residents and making sure everyone has a place to live, including those who have served our country.”

Councilman Kenyatta Johnson also showed support for the new development.

“Building affordable housing is always a challenge, one that we will continue to meet head on, especially in the Point Breeze neighborhood,” Johnson said in a statement. “I am happy to see the Mamie Nichols Townhomes Project come one step closer to fruition, and I am hopeful for more smart development projects that allow for strong mixed-income communities in the future.”

Once the 33 units are completed, 11 will be allocated specifically for veterans; the others will be available for rent to lower income families. They will include one-to-three bedroom homes on 1308-1344 S. Capitol St. and 1400-1428 S. Taylor St.