PHA to Build New Mega-Community Center in West Philadelphia
                     
    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 unprecedented 

    "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 office. 

    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 housing authority. 

    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 to come." 

    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 provide.     

    "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 rooms. 

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 center.

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.