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On the Ground Redux: PEC planning efforts transform Lancaster Avenue

On May 21, the People’s Emergency Center (PEC) officially accepted a $750,000 grant from the Wells Fargo Regional Foundation to help restore the legacy of West Philly's Lancaster Avenue as a thriving commercial corridor. First on the docket is the restoration of historic Hawthorne Hall.

The grant is the result of a year-long "Make Your Mark" neighborhood planning process facilitated by PEC. The program brought together stakeholders to discuss a vision for improving the community. The group agreed that it was important to revive the corridor as a cultural destination studded with restaurants and retail locations, fueling economic growth. The grant, part of nearly $1.5 million in total funding to support PEC, is the latest step towards that goal.

"We're very grateful for the investment," says Farah Jimenez, president and CEO of PEC. "It's the culmination of various communities working together for a common purpose."

The redevelopment of historic Hawthorne Hall is a priority project (as identified by the planning process) -- the building is seen as the gateway to the revamped corridor. PEC has purchased two major sections of the Hall for redevelopment. The first, 3849 Lancaster Avenue, has commercial space on the first floor and a theater space on the second.

PEC envisions a sit-down restaurant on the ground floor and a performing arts venue upstairs. For now, the theater will be a site for the Hidden City Festival, allowing visitors to explore the historic space before renovation.

The second section, 3859 - 61 Lancaster Avenue, will be used for two years by Mighty Writers for its afterschool program.  Four housing units on the second and third floors will be part of the future redevelopment.

In addition to these projects, Jimenez says the grant will help PEC hire additional staff to coordinate, organize and implement these exciting projects. 

Source:  Farah Jimenez, President and CEO, People's Emergency Center
WriterGreg Meckstroth
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