The hundreds of PHA families who live in
and near the Lucien E. Blackwell Homes in West Philadelphia are
getting a new community center, a facility PHA Executive Director
Carl Greene calls the capstone of the community.
City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, who is
also a PHA commissioner, says the agreement among the housing
authority, the School District of Philadelphia, the city of
Philadelphia and the state of Pennsylvania is
"This plan has been a long time in coming,
but the result was worth waiting for," said Blackwell. "Families in
West Philadelphia will get a well equipped, professionally managed,
family oriented community center. And the school district will add
another specialized school. Everybody wins," she said.
The plan calls for the Sulzberger Middle
School at 48th and Fairmount to be transformed into a public safety
themed high school with an emphasis on criminal justice education,
an idea suggested by the school district and the U.S. attorney's
The community center will be a component
of the new high school during school hours, and then switch over to
community use after school and in the evenings. The building will
also consolidate PHA property management offices in the area; a
change the agency says will facilitate rule enforcement and ensure
the long-term viability of the neighborhood.
The center at 47th and Aspen Streets will
include 30,000 square feet of space, including a full size
basketball court, computer labs, and activity rooms.
Funding for the $12 million initiative
will come from a variety of sources. The Philadelphia Housing
Authority will invest $4 million. The School District of
Philadelphia will also contribute $4 million. The state of
Pennsylvania will add $2 million ($500,000 of which is committed so
far with the rest to be identified.) $1.5 million will come from
Councilwoman Blackwell's 3rd District Capital funds and $500,000
from the city of Philadelphia. PHA will build the center, which
will be owned and managed jointly by the school district and the
PHA Executive Director Carl Greene said
the new center will complement the rebirth of West Philadelphia.
"PHA has built several hundred homes in the neighborhood. This new
facility allows us to combine after school and evening educational
programs for our residents and enhance our partnership with the
U.S. attorney to address violence prevention at the earliest
possible age. For us, this building represents a major step toward
providing families in this section of the city with a true sense of
community," Greene said.
"It is always gratifying to work on a team
that is committed to a common goal," said U.S. Attorney Pat Meehan.
"Jannie Blackwell and the Philadelphia Housing Authority have done
a tremendous job steering this ship. Our commitment to the
culmination of this project as well as the revitalization of the
community continues and we look forward to the momentous occasions
For the school district, the time and
place is just right. Interim CEO Tom Brady said in order to convert
Sulzberger Middle School into a high school, they need a gym and
that's what the new community center will
"Councilwoman Blackwell has talked to us
the past few years about joining PHA in building a community
center, but until now the district could not justify that kind of
investment. Now we can," Brady said.
The school district has also committed to
work with Councilwoman Blackwell to build its next sports "super
site" in the 3rd council district. Similar to super sites in
Northeast and Northwest Philadelphia, this facility will include a
field, bleachers, concession stands, and an eight-lane track, and
serve as a home field for a variety of schools. The school district
has already budgeted for this project, and has begun working with
Blackwell, evaluating potential sites.
Construction on the community center is
tentatively scheduled to begin in spring 2008.
|The Lucien E. Blackwell Community Center at 47th and Aspen
Streets will include 30,000 square feet of space, including a full
size basketball court, computer labs, and activity
|City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, who is also a PHA
commissioner, said families in West Philadelphia will get a well
equipped, professionally managed, family oriented community
Philadelphia School District Interim CEO Tom Brady
(right) said in order to convert Sulzberger Middle School into
a high school, they need a gym and that's what the new community
center will provide.
|PHA Executive Director Carl Greene said the new center will
complement the rebirth of West Philadelphia.
"For us, this building represents a major step toward providing
families in this section of the city with a true sense of
community," Greene said.