City government officials gathered with neighborhood representatives and local media on Monday to announce the beginning of construction of apartment and townhouses near Carlisle Street and Susquehanna Avenue, adjacent to Main Campus.
Mayor John Street said the construction, named Susquehanna Village, would be the first step in building up the Susquehanna Avenue neighborhood.
“We’re talking about neighborhoods,” Street said. “Cleaning up neighborhoods. Investing city dollars, tax dollars in neighborhoods. Changing the quality of life and improving the quality of opportunity in neighborhoods.”
Darrell Clark, the councilman for the 5th District, which surrounds Temple University, joined Sen. Shirley Kitchen (D., Phila.) and state Rep. Jewell Williams (D., Phila.) in speaking during the ceremony, which celebrated not only the project, but also their work over the years to revitalize North Philadelphia.
Susquehanna Village will consist of 53 apartments and townhouses that will be primarily used for senior housing. The building will also house commercial stores on the Susquehanna Avenue side.
“On the 15th Street side, it’s going to be rental properties for people in low-income housing,” Williams said.
According to Rep. Williams, the project should be completed by December.
Clark said the effect of this project on the university would be seen in the growing development in the areas surrounding the campus.
“I think it will be catalyst, hopefully to stimulate more development on Susquehanna Avenue,” Clark said. “Some of the other avenues in the area have benefited from aggressive housing strategies that we’ve had in North Philadelphia, and we hope this in fact will stimulate some additional growth down here and the surrounding areas. The fact that the university is a neighbor, the assumption is that it will be a positive impact on the university also.”
Mayor Street said it is his hope that this project will be the beginning of a major revitalization to the area. The neighborhoods surrounding Susquehanna Avenue have deteriorated since the 1980s, when, as Street said, the neighborhood was in its “heyday.”
“I can remember years ago when Susquehanna Avenue was the place to be. Susquehanna Avenue was ‘it,'” Street said. “There was nothing that you needed that you couldn’t get on Susquehanna Avenue. It’s never going to be exactly the way it was. But we can bring it back. We can do better.”
The speakers recalled gathering together more than 20 years ago to first discuss community projects in the area when Mayor Street was the then councilman for the 5th District.
Street, who lives in one of the neighborhoods surrounding Temple’s campus, said this area had particular importance to him, because of his home’s close proximity and the amount of time he has spent working for these neighborhoods.
Sen. Kitchen urged community to stay in the area, and not sell to the city for development and relocate to another part of the city.
“We’ve got to hold on to this last little bit here. This community is ours; we live here,” Kitchen said. “But don’t be sitting here, waiting for somebody to offer you that price, and then you go. … We’re gonna stick. Our kids are going to take over our properties. We are not going to be tempted.”
During the ceremony, Rep. Williams announced that $1 million dollars from capital projects would be put into redeveloping Susquehanna Avenue.
“And after that, I have another half-million dollars to start working on some housing in the neighborhoods,” Williams said.
According to a press release sent by Rep. William’s office, financing for the project was obtained through the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, Redevelopment Authority, PNC, the Federal Home Loan Bank Board of Pittsburgh and the Reinvestment Fund.
Emily Catalano can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.