Construction progresses on Norris Apartments

The Norris Apartments units are expected to be completed in November 2019.

Ground was broken in Sept. to build new homes on the 1100 block of Norris street, as a part of a new affordable housing project. | RYAN ENOCH / THE TEMPLE NEWS

The Norris Apartments on Norris Street near 11th is undergoing a five-phase redevelopment which will result in 297 new units, a community center and parking. The apartments are set to be completed in November 2019. 

The development is funded by a $30 million North Central Choice Neighborhoods Implementation grant from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development to the city and the Philadelphia Housing Authority.  

“It feels good,” said Donna Richardson, the president of Norris Community Resident Council, who lived in the Norris Homes development for 30 years. “We’ve been waiting for it.”

In April 2018, PHA began to demolish the Norris Homes Development. On Sept. 10, Temple University President Richard Englert and other local officials broke ground on the third phase of redevelopment. 

The Norris Homes was built in the 1950s as an affordable housing development for low-income residents. The 147 units had not undergone a major internal or external renovation since it was built.

Ninety of the 297 units will be allotted for people with income less than 60 percent of the area median income, wrote Nichole Tillman, executive vice president of communications of PHA, in an email to The Temple News.

Former Norris residents have the right to return and do not have to apply to move back in, Tillman wrote. The apartment development is the third phase of the five phases of construction, which will take five years to complete.

The new units will include a modern exterior with amenities like central air, open floor plans, interior storage, washers and dryers and modern kitchens.

The 10,000-square-foot community center will include after-school spaces, a computer room, library, kitchenette and office space for the Norris Resident Council.

“We’re thrilled to see the renewal of this neighborhood as we work toward building a stronger, safer, more vibrant and sustainable community,” PHA President and CEO Kelvin Jeremiah said in a release in September.

In 2015, the Norris Resident Council approached Temple about the idea of running its own community education program with support from the College of Education. 

Later that year, Temple and the Norris Resident Council partnered to create a community-led education program, which is staffed by residents of the Norris community.

Temple purchases curricula, focused heavily on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and manages financial aspects of the program, said Meghan Raisch, Temple’s education engagement specialist.

Professional development workshops for residential staff are co-designed by Temple and the Norris Resident Council.

“What we did differently, is created the service together with the community,” Raisch said. “We have moved from having a transactional relationship to a proactive and collaborative one, with the university in an equitable partnership that we’re really proud of.” 

Since the community-led educational program’s launch, it has doubled in size, growing from 20 to 40 students and from four staff members to eight, Raisch said.  

The College of Education is committed to financially supporting the initiative and keeping the program community-led after families move into the new apartments, she added.

“We are always looking for ways we can connect the needs of residents, the students in particular, to campus opportunities,” Raisch said. “This is a great way for us to get the word out about programs on campus and increase the college-access pipeline starting in pre-K.”

Richardson said she hopes the relationship between the university and Norris will continue to thrive.

“I would like for people to not look at us as if this is a sad thing and call us ‘poor people,’” Richardson said. “This has been something that this community has needed and deserved.”

“These people deserve to take pride in their homes,” she added. “With the help of Temple, people are receiving the education that they need, and I think that’s comfortable for any parent to know that their children will be well off.”

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