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Compass, Connector, Catalyst: Re-Imagining 8th and Berks

November 14, 2013

8th and Berks Charrette (4)

On November 1st, Philadelphia LISC co-hosted a design charrette to explore the possibilities of redeveloping a 1.8-acre, city-owned vacant lot at 8th and Berks—a key site in APM’s SCI-Eastern North Philadelphia strategy for building a more sustainable, equitable, and vibrant neighborhood.

The event, “Compass, Connector, Catalyst: Re-Imagining 8th and Berks”  brought together designers, public agencies, community development experts, and community stakeholders as part of AIA Philadelphia’s Design on the Delaware conference. Philadelphia LISC’s partners included Community Design Collaborative, Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha, City of Philadelphia Office of Housing and Community Development, and AIA Philadelphia.

Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha (APM), Philadelphia LISC , and the City of Philadelphia Office of Housing and Community Development have worked together for over twenty years to transform the APM community in Eastern North Philadelphia from one of blight to one of choice. Their partnership continues with APM’s Sustainable Communities Initiative (SCI) for Eastern North Philadelphia, which was created to implement a long-lasting, sustainable, and comprehensive strategy to meet the challenges facing this community.

The redevelopment of the large, city-owned parcel at 8th and Berks will further catalyze redevelopment in Eastern North, building on momentum generated by the new green, transit-oriented development at 9th and Berks: Paseo Verde.  That development is slated to open before the end of 2013, and features 120 units of rental housing and over 30,000 square feet of community and retail space.

Designers, architects, local stakeholders, and other participants worked to come up with designs that responded to community needs and answered the following key questions: How can we best engage the community in envisioning the site’s future? What unmet community needs will be the right match? And how can one parcel make a difference—as a compass for community change, a connector of people and places, and a catalyst for a sustainable community?


Photos by Jane Whitehouse 

LISC supported University City job training program getting results

November 7, 2013

Over the last three years, University City District has worked to develop a strong job training program that would connect residents of West Philadelphia with opportunities in their own neighborhood. A recent article in the Philadelphia Daily News and on highlights the results of UCD’s programs so far.

West Philadelphia residents overall struggle with high unemployment and low educational attainment, despite the fact that they live in the back yard of major anchor institutions like University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University, and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia that together house tens of thousands of jobs. LISC supported UCD’s West Philadelphia Skills Initiative and helped UCD create a Financial Opportunity Center (FOC) that would combine job training and placement with support accessing public benefits and financial counseling. UCD is also a partner in LISC’s Sustainable Communities Initiative in West Philadelphia.

University City job training program getting results

by Solomon Leach posted October 29, 2013 on

After several months of sending out resumes and applying for jobs, all Joyce Bacon wanted was an interview – a chance to meet with an employer face-to-face to talk about her skills. Little did Bacon know that chance would come at a world-renowned medical institution, and one not far from her home – Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. In April, she was hired as a patient sitter, and recently promoted to in-patient clerk.

Bacon, 36, is among dozens of West Philadelphia residents who have gotten opportunities through the West Philadelphia Skills Initiative, a job-training program created by the University City District (UCD) in 2010 to connect people with in-demand jobs at some of the area’s largest institutions. Of the 95 people who have completed the program, 80 have been hired by employers who partner with the program, officials said.

Joyce Bacon stands in the lobby of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where she’s been promoted to an in-patient clerk. The West Philly Skills Initiative was crucial in her getting hired at the hospital. (Photo by David Maialetti)

“What they did for me was just help push out the confidence that was already within me,” said Bacon, who has a background as a corrections officer and a schoolteacher. “The skills that I learned there will help me with future endeavors as well.”

Not only are graduates of the program getting hired, but they’re sticking around, often in positions that normally have a high turnover, officials claim. According to UCD, employers said the retention rate after six months is 92 percent.

Read the Philadelphia Daily News original article

Career Opportunity: Program Officer at Philadelphia LISC

November 6, 2013

Philadelphia LISC is looking to hire a second Program Officer.  Please share with your networks.  The application deadline is December 13th. Thank you.

Philadelphia LISC seeks a Program Officer to oversee its Sustainable Communities Initiative in West Philadelphia (SCI West), and coordinate Financial Opportunity Center (FOC), Commercial Corridor, and lending programs.  The individual hired to fill this position will be expected to provide financial and technical assistance to neighborhood partner organizations; develop new programs and projects in SCI-West; strengthen partnerships among community-based organizations, anchor institutions, and other corporate, civic and public sector organizations; build and maintain consensus among different constituencies; and advocate for policy and system innovations.  In addition, the individual will be responsible for managing and expanding following strategic priorities across Philadelphia:  Financial Opportunities Center, Commercial Corridor and lending programs. The position reports to the Deputy Director; and may have supervisory duties over interns.

Download the full job description here

If interested in applying, please submit detailed cover letter with salary requirements, resume, and writing sample by December 13, 2013 to Dana Hanchin, Deputy Director at


LISC partners with National Park Service and Mantua residents to create a community trail

November 5, 2013

Philadelphia LISC is pleased to be partnering with the National Park Service Rivers and Trails Conservation Assistance program (RTCA), who will be providing technical assistance to a community-driven effort to create a community greenway in Mantua. RTCA staff will lend their expertise helping communities revitalize urban trails to engage necessary partners and stakeholders, build consensus on a community vision and implementation plan, and helping organize residents and stakeholders for long-term planning and maintenance for the trail project.

national_park_serviceThe Mantua Greenway project is a collaborative effort engaging residents and community stakeholders (We Are Mantua! Beautification Committee aka “The Committee”) in planning and renovation of a greenway along Mantua Avenue and Parrish Street from the Spring Garden bridge at 31st Street to the 40th Street bridge, and potentially up to 40th Street and Girard Avenue. The Committee includes representation from the Mantua Civic Association’s Beautification Committee, Mantua Ave Residents, and other Mantua residents and leaders.

In fact, residents like Bessie Washington have already been improving the land along Mantua Avenue at the site of the future trail. Washington has added seating, potted plants, and lawn ornaments to a 30 foot section of the empty land as a memorial to her parents. As Project Leader for the Mantua Greenway project, Washington also helps create a bridge between The Committee, other institutional partners and Mantua residents. Local leadership is an important component of the project and will lead to greater sustainability for the trail in the long run.

The project in Mantua falls under LISC’s comprehensive community development strategy or Sustainable Communities Initiative (SCI). Through SCI, LISC invests its resources in a multi-faceted approach that expands investment in housing and other real estate, increases family wealth and income, stimulates economic activity, locally and regionally, improves access to education, training, and family services, and fosters livable, safe, and healthy environments. The Mantua Greenway is also a priority project of LISC’s Healthy Communities Initiative, a collaboration among community based organizations and public health stakeholders to improve neighborhood-wide health outcomes and lower rates of obesity, hypertension, and Diabetes.

The Greenway would connect to Philadelphia’s existing Schuylkill Trail system, which runs along 31st Street to 34th Street north to Girard Ave. The current vision calls for adding trees, permeable pavement and other stormwater management infrastructure, murals and art installations, and a tribute to Mantua history and community leaders.

Residents and stakeholders see the trail as an opportunity to address challenges impacting the quality of life for the Mantua neighborhood. Isolation and a lack of connectivity present the greatest challenges. Mantua’s northern border, Mantua Avenue, is bounded by Amtrak tracks, with only three access points: the SpringGarden bridge, the 34th Street bridge, and the 40th Street bridge. As a result, outsiders rarely traverse the neighborhood, Mantua residents struggle to connect with opportunities nearby, investment in the area is limited, and community cohesion is eroded. These barriers have also led to low economic opportunity and high unemployment and poverty rates, high crime rates, problems with blight and vacancy (32% of properties are vacant), and population decline. In Mantua, 83% of residents are African American, 12% are white, 2% are two or more races, and 3% are other races. In addition, 54% of residents live below the poverty line.


Residents and partners conduct a “walking audit” of the Mantua Greenway and visit the section beautified and maintained by Mantua neighbor Bessie Washington.

Health outcomes in Mantua demonstrate the impact of these aspects of the physical and social environment. In the LISC Sustainable Communities Initiative (SCI) West target area which includes Mantua, 63% of children are overweight or obese, 45% of adults have hypertension, and 39% of adults are obese, rates which exceed city averages of 47%, 36%, and 32%, respectively.

Until recently, a lack of local capacity has prevented Mantua from addressing its problems. An award of a HUD Choice Planning grant to Mount Vernon Manor in 2011 allowed LISC and other agencies to support the We Are Mantua! (WAM) planning effort. LISC helped WAM engage residents in the planning process and in early action items, including establishing a new civic association and securing a three-year $600,000 Byrne grant for community safety.

WAM’s Physical Development Task Force identified the Mantua Greenway as an early action priority due to its potential to break down barriers for mobility and investment. The We Are Mantua! Beautification Committee (WAMBC) represents a coalition of organizations and residents now overseeing the Mantua Greenway project.

The project:

  • Enhances proximity to CenterCity
  • Addresses barriers to connectivity
  • Welcomes visitors into the neighborhood
  • Strengthens the existing trail network by extending the West Schuylkill Banks Trail
  • Connects Mantua and University City to cultural and recreation destinations, such as FairmountPark, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Zoo, and the PleaseTouchMuseum
  • Engages residents in the planning process and in the use of the Greenway
  • Encourages safe and healthful activities, such as such as uGO! community fitness initiative, senior walking groups, and Mantua In Action, an out of school time sports program for youth
  • Achieves one of WAM’s objectives: development of a greenway along Mantua Ave
    nue, in connection with major housing developments and other improvements.

West Philadelphia Community-Police Partnership Recognized with $20,000 National Safety Award

November 4, 2013

MetLife Foundation, LISC honors University City alliance reducing crime and revitalizing neighborhood


(Philadelphia, PA) – University City District (UCD) and the Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) will be honored by MetLife Foundation for their extraordinary partnership to improve community safety on Monday, November 4, 10am at the UCD office and Philadelphia Police 18th District substation located at 3940 Chestnut Street.  MetLife Managing Director David Fleisher presented the partners with the award.

This partnership was selected from more than 540 applicants nationwide for a MetLife Foundation Community-Police Partnership Award, a program administered by the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC). The partners’ collaborative approach to revitalize the community through a place-based and data-driven approach caught the attention of the national selection committee comprised of police commanders, community development executives and LISC staff.

“Collaboration between community-based groups and police departments can reduce crime, stimulate housing and business activity, and improve the quality of life in lower-income neighborhoods,” added Dennis White, president and CEO of MetLife Foundation. “The Philadelphia partnership is an exemplary model for groups nationwide facing similar challenges and opportunities.”

The work of UCD and the PPD has grown significantly over the years and has sustained crime declines for their target area.  This is the second time the partners are being honored by MetLife Foundation and LISC.  In 2004, UCD and the PPD were recognized for their successful revitalization and safety work for the Baltimore Avenue Commercial Corridor Initiative.  They are now being recognized with an award in Neighborhood Revitalization and Economic Vitality for the Multi-Institution and Police District Public Safety Partnership.

“UCD recently completely a 15-year analysis of crime trends in the neighborhood, and determined that—while serious crime in the entire city has fallen by more than 20% since 1998—serious crime in University City has been cut in half over that same time period. Even more significant drops were observed in the occurrence of quality of life crimes across several categories. This stands as a testament to the incredible partnership between the Philadelphia Police Department and UCD, as well as the major investment in policing and public safety by Penn, Drexel and many other University City institutions. As always, we’re happy to play a supporting role to all of our partners through UCD’s ambassador program and public safety initiatives,” said UCD executive director Matt Bergheiser.

“Partnering with community leaders is a critical element of the Philadelphia Police Department’s approach to crime reduction and prevention,” said Deputy Commissioner Kevin Bethel. “Our longtime partnership with University City District and the University City Safety Group represents results-oriented and data-driven community policing at its best.”

University City District (UCD) is a partnership of universities, small businesses and residents dedicated to improving economic vitality and quality of life.  UCD fulfills this mission of community revitalization through several interconnected efforts and a longstanding relationship with law enforcement.  UCD and the Philadelphia Police Department have developed shared goals of day-to-day responsive deployment and long-term crime data analysis.  UCD, representatives from two police districts, and other partners regularly gather for deployment meetings to assess crime and determine the need for increased patrol presence, distribution of alerts to the community, and to discuss ongoing challenges.  UCD also partners with the University City Safety Group, which coordinates monthly meetings of the 19 agencies responsible for safety in University City, including the University of Pennsylvania, DrexelUniversity, AMTRAK, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the IRS, and the FBI.

“The partnership between University City District and the Philadelphia Police Department combines data analysis, community engagement, coordinated deployment and community revitalization.  It is a best practice in integrated community safety and community development,” said Andrew Frishkoff, Director of LISC’s local office in Philadelphia. “Philadelphia LISC is proud to work alongside these two excellent partners and we congratulate them on their well-deserved MetLife Foundation award.”

For APM’s annual gala, LISC thanks APM for 23 years of partnership

November 2, 2013
For APM's annual gala, LISC thanks APM for 23 years of partnership

Congratulations to APM for another year and another wonderful holiday gala.

At 52nd Street Action Summit, stakeholders decide work plan for a new Corridor Manager

November 1, 2013

The Enterprise Center hosted the 52nd Street Action Summit on Tuesday, October 29th. The goal of the summit was to create a short-term action plan for the soon-to-be-hired 52nd Street Commercial Corridor Manager, who will lead TEC-CDC’s ongoing work on the 52nd Street corridor.

Stakeholders at the summit included community leaders and business owners from 52nd Street and the surrounding neighborhoods, as well as representatives from Philadelphia LISC, Philadelphia Commerce Department, and Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell’s office.

Attendees looked at past revitalization efforts on the corridor, current conditions, and future aspirations before narrowing down a list of goals and action items for the incoming corridor manager.

National planning experts from the RBA Group, Larisa Ortiz Associates, and Karp Resources facilitated lively discussions focused on food as a means to strengthen and enliven the corridor. Using food as a means of revitalization builds on TEC-CDC’s ongoing work with LISC and the Walnut Hill community to create a complete local food system in West Philadelphia and support local food entrepreneurs, such as the development of the Center for Culinary Enterprises and the creation of an urban Community Supported Agriculture program at the Walnut Hill Community Farm.

Philadelphia LISC is excited about the positive conversations started at the summit and looks forward to partnering with The Enterprise Center and others to continue and expand revitalization initiatives along the 52nd Street commercial corridor.