Mayor Nutter announced Tuesday that Philadelphia will receive the $30 million CHOICE neighborhood grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that will help renovate the Norris Apartments east of Main Campus. As part of the revitalization project, Temple will provide an additional $1 million and create programs to aid local public schools.
The grant will partially fund a renovation of the 147 low-income units in the Norris Apartments complex, which are owned by the Philadelphia Housing Authority. These will be replaced with 300 low-income eco-friendly housing units.
The project is expected to take five years and is set to begin in six to nine months.
Additional plans for the project include an expansion of the complex’s community center, a new workforce center, 2,000 square-feet of commercial retail space, a community park and 75 underground parking spaces.
The grant is a part of a transformation plan which aims to revitalize and rebuild the distressed North Central Philadelphia neighborhoods, an area that has 64.9 percent of its households living below the poverty line, according to PHA.
The grant will also allow for the implementation of a loan fund to assist in the founding of businesses on Germantown Avenue, as part of a citywide effort to provide jobs and help strengthen the neighborhood.
“Our strategy builds on programs that work,” said Melissa Long, deputy director at the Office of Housing and Community Development. “They are proven and we’re building taking those programs and moving them to get that market stronger and moving up and north.”
An additional $125 million in funding for the project is expected to come from the city, state and private sources over time.
The area that will be affected by the combined funding will be approximately bounded by 6th Street to the east, York Street to the north, 16th Street to the West and Cecil B. Moore Avenue to the south.
“I look forward to implementing this grant and working to continue to rebuild this neighborhood so it will genuinely be a neighborhood of choice,” said City Council president Darrell Clarke, whose fifth district includes the neighborhood.
Temple, a partner in the plan to transform the surrounding neighborhood, promised $1.2 million in funding dispersed over 5 years for neighborhood improvement programs. The university has partnered with the nonprofit organization, EducationWorks, to provide high school training programs offering afterschool tutoring, college and career training and counseling to residents. A new educational engagement coordinator position will also be created with university funds.
Gregory Anderson, the dean of the College of Education, could not be reached for comment.
One of the plan’s phases involves relocation of the 373 residents currently living in the Norris Apartments. The residents will receive 145 vouchers to relocate for the duration of the construction, with temporary homes available throughout the United States and Puerto Rico. They have been promised first pick of the newly built homes as long as they are in “good-standing” with their lease.
Residents that are being relocated during the construction of the new mixed income housing fear they may not be able to come back as promised or afford the new units.
“How can the low income people afford to come back here?” said Norrman Summer, a resident of the Norris apartments. “It’s impossible you promising something that basically can’t happen.”
Jo’Rhodie Smith, an elderly resident of the Norris Apartments for more than 30 years sat outside during the announcement of the grant. She said she was not notified about the press conference taking place and found out about it after hearing a noise outside of her home.
“I don’t want to go to no man’s land,” Smith said. “I know that we do need to make a change but I’m not going nowhere. I’ll fight that. I’ve been here too long.”
This $30 million grant is the second of its kind for PHA in the last year. In November 2013, the housing authority received a $500,000 CHOICE neighborhood planning grant.
Sarai Flores can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @saraiaflores.
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