ABOVE PHOTO: PHA Executive Director Carl Greene shows plans for PHA’s “Promise Neighborhood” to members of the School Reform Commission. The plan calls for a large community center and a boarding school.
The Philadelphia Housing Authority introduced a ground-breaking educational proposal before the School Reform Commission last week – a “Promise Neighborhood” in West Philadelphia, including two charter schools, one of which would be a boarding school.
Over the past decade, PHA has invested upwards of $175 million rebuilding the Lucien E. Blackwell community, which covers a 12-block area stretching from 40th to 48th Streets and bounded by Haverford Avenue, Lancaster Avenue and Westminster Avenue.
To date, PHA has built or completely rehabbed nearly 700 homes in the neighborhood, replacing vacant lots and crumbling structures. The Promise Neighborhood plan calls for three significant components to add to the housing.
- Develop a 22,500 square foot recreation, education and training facility called the Lucien E. Blackwell Community Center at an estimated cost of $10,500,000
- Develop a 46,000 square foot boarding dormitory at an estimated cost of $16 million
- Establish and operate both Martha Washington Elementary and the former Sulzberger Middle School building, initially as contract schools and later as charter schools. Sulzberger would become a high school.
“When we planned the development in the late 1990’s we focused on replacing homes for families and seniors. But these additional facilities will enable families to truly thrive. We look forward to working with the School District to make this tremendous plan a reality,” said PHA Executive Director Carl Greene.
The District and PHA reached tentative agreement on the community center in 2007 with funding commitments from both organizations but two changes in the District’s administration have caused a delay implementing the plan.
The proposal for the boarding charter school – similar to the SEED School in Washington DC – was added later. A team of PHA officials, led by Greene, visited the school last year and came away inspired and believing a boarding school would be an extremely attractive addition to the neighborhood.
“The development of the community center and dormitory – along with the City of Philadelphia’s investment of $2 million in improvements to an adjacent park – will create a pedestrian safe campus and complete the process of creating a Promise Neighborhood,” Greene told the SRC.
A Promise Neighborhood aligns educational, housing and recreational resources in a community, resulting in an uplifting of the overall community’s economic and social conditions. Blackwell would be Philadelphia’s first experience with the concept.
PHA is hoping to negotiate a Memorandum of Understanding with the school district clearing the way for the project to move forward.
About PHA: The Philadelphia Housing Authority is the nation’s 4th largest housing authority, serving more than 80,000 rental residents. PHA is also a major real estate developer, rebuilding neighborhoods with construction or total rehab of 7,000 homes – including hundreds of homes for sale – over the past decade. See more at www.pha.phila.gov.