West Philadelphia's Mantua neighborhood -- site of Flying Kite's first On the Ground
location -- was recently designated one of five federally-nominated "Promise Zones
." The announcement was greeted with some confusion. What exactly does it mean to be a Promise Zone community? Is there money involved?
According to Farah Jimenez, president and CEO of the Mantua-based People's Emergency Center
, a Promise Zone is "at its core, purely a designation." To be more specific, it's something like a federal stamp of prioritization -- a Promise Zone neighborhood gets to "jump the line," so to speak, when it applies for federal funding.
There are other elements to the program: President Obama is encouraging Congress to fund the Zones with a series of tax credits, for instance, that could spur private investment. And, thanks to a reduction in bureaucratic red tape, there's now an incentive for groups like the Pennsylvania Finance Housing Agency
to approve projects in Promise Zone communities.
"Instead of waiting in line, which is often the tradition around these funding sources, we're more likely to get it fast-tracked," explains Jimenez. "There are more opportunities to get more affordable housing built in our communities."
So while the Promise Zone designation doesn't come with a proverbial pot of gold, it could provide advantages. The PEC recently filed its third application for low-income housing tax credits with the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency.
"Our hope is that with the Promise Zone designation, this third submission will be a charm," says Jimenez, "and we'll be awarded the allocation funding we're seeking."
The Center is also looking at a number of possible new initiatives, including a local interpretation of the Harlem Children's Zone
, an education nonprofit profiled in the celebrated documentary Waiting for "Superman."
As far as PEC is concerned, Mantua's run as a Promise Zone region "is not going to be just chasing money," says Jimenez. "It's got to [involve] opportunities that will help us achieve the outcomes that we want for our community."
Source: Farah Jimenez, People's Emergency Center
Writer: Dan Eldridge