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Empowered CDC expands community-driven change in Southwest Philly

Regina Young never set out to found a community development corporation. A New Haven, Conn., native who now lives and works in Southwest Philadelphia, she had a career in teaching and social work before going back to school for her masters in community development.

She says her inspiration for the CDC simply came from living in the neighborhood and interacting with friends and family there. In 2014, she launched Empowered Community Development Corporation out of Meyers Recreation Center at 58th Street and Kingsessing Avenue, not far from Flying Kite’s new On the Ground digs.  

Southwest CDC has been operating in the neighborhood for decades, but Young still saw a need for her group.

"The geographic area of Southwest is so large," she says. "It’s just pretty evident that one organization cannot possibly effectively handle all of the community in this particular area."

Young sees Empowered CDC as part of a local matrix that will see success in cooperation.

"This has to be a collaborative approach," she explains. "There’s not anything that can be done that’s sustainable if we’re an island. We have to deal with other organizations; we have to really get the community reinvested in beautifying and building and transforming the Southwest area."

Currently, Empowered holds some programs out of Myers, but because of needed building repairs there, the organization has moved its offices temporarily to nearby Tilden Middle School.

Their health and wellness program is the one Young is most excited about: A recent community garden initiative in a former vacant lot has spurred beautification, education, healthy food access, safe space for seniors and youth, and community cohesion. Empowered obtained a lease for three lots on the 2000 block of Cecil Street, and in the course of a year, formed a community garden club and installed benches and garden beds for flowers, fruits and veggies. This summer, the CDC is launching new educational programs around the garden for youth, seniors and everyone in between.  

"I charged the community with really leading the design of what this parcel of land looks like," says Young.

And the transformation there is spreading.

"It started with the garden," she explains, but now locals are saying, "if we can do this with a parcel of land, what can we do with our own block?" It’s lead to new painting, more street cleaning, a movement to get planters installed, and "really being a more cohesive block. That’s what Empowered is all about."

The organization is still new, but Young has high hopes for building and utilizing the skills of community members.

"Our biggest asset as an organization, being very new, is simply human capital: understanding how relationships matter, how communities have a voice," she says. "That’s what really propels us as an organization."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Regina Young, Empowered CDC


Follow all our work #OnTheGroundPhilly via twitter (@flyingkitemedia) and Instagram (@flyingkite_ontheground).

On the Ground is made possible by the Knight Foundation, an organization that supports transformational ideas, promotes quality journalism, advances media innovation, engages communities and fosters the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit knightfoundation.org.

Knight Cities Challenge funds the development of 20 new Philly cooperatives

"There are many different expressions of cooperation and mutual aid in Philadelphia, among very diverse groups of people," explains Caitlin Quigley of the Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance (PACA). Now, thanks to a $146,000 award from the national Knight Cities Challenge (check out our peek at the four Philly winners here), the organization hopes to expand interest in co-ops citywide.

PACA’s Knight-funded 20 Book Clubs, 20 Cooperative Businesses initiative aims to gather learning groups of six to 12 people from a variety of Philly neighborhoods. The organization will help guide the book clubs through a tailored process to master the building blocks of building a cooperatively-run business of any type, based on the community’s interests and needs.

So what exactly is a "co-op"?

A cooperative grocery store (like Philly’s Weavers Way or Mariposa), for example, "is a business you own with your neighbors," explains Quigley. "You make decisions about the products that are on the shelves, how the co-op should treat its workers; how the co-op should decide how to be in the community.”

The latter includes things like representation at events, education and outreach, and making donations.

"You and your fellow co-owners can decide how you want that business to serve you," she adds.

And while grocery stores might be the most prominent local example, PACA is a consortium of all kinds of co-ops across many industries. These range from banks to housing to community gardens, green space, or land trusts, or child-care or artist co-ops.

The 20 Book Clubs, 20 Cooperative Businesses project, operating on a year-long grant cycle from April 2016 to April 2017, will continue outreach this summer, with the goal of organizing project participants by September. Each group will meet twice a month for six months, with guidance from PACA staffers and volunteers, and a comprehensive curriculum of suggested learning materials, from books and comics to field trips and podcasts.

Author Dr. Jessica Gordon Nembhard, whose book Collective Courage is a major inspiration for the project, is collaborating with PACA on the study guide.

In March of next year, participating groups will convene at a large event that will include cooperative business pitches. Beyond that, PACA hopes to support interested groups in more intensive business planning, such as drafting articles of incorporation and writing bylaws.

"Not all of the groups that do the book clubs are going to necessarily decide to move onto this phase," says Quigley, but that’s ok. "Even if it doesn’t happen right now…They have a new set of tools and perspectives that they can bring to anything they do in their communities from then on." Ultimately, it’s about building "a strong movement around a just and inclusive economy, with all of these different sectors of cooperatives and their members."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Caitlin Quigley, Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance

Meet Broad Street Ministry's new executive director

Last summer, we featured Broad Street Ministry (BSM), a powerful local organization offering an ever-expanding range of services and resources for thousands of Philadelphians experiencing homelessness, poverty, housing or food insecurity. This month, BSM is installing a dynamic and dedicated new leader: Michael J. Dahl.

"I had a desire to start working with the most vulnerable in our community at the grassroots level," says Dahl of what prompted him to make this career shift (he’s former senior vice president of Pew Charitable Trusts, overseeing the Philadelphia program). "It became a personal matter -- where do I think I could have the most impact at this point in my life, in my career? I was looking around for what the next chapter could be."

He was impressed by BSM’s model and services. He went and volunteered, and participating himself is what confirmed his desire to get involved.

A Stanford alum, Dahl is taking over for BSM founder Rev. Bill Golderer, who left the organization last November to seek a seat in U.S. Congress (Golderer will remain on the BSM Board of Directors through the transition).

Before his 15 years with Pew -- which encompassed planning, public policy, fundraising, evaluation, research, finance and legal affairs -- Dahl had a hand in two successful business startups spanning strategic advisory, and insurance and financial services software. He was also an economic, tax and policy advisor to Senator Bill Bradley.

Dahl argues that it’s become far too easy for us as a society to "dehumanize" entire populations. He appreciates BSM’s rigorous approach not only to programming (including offerings as diverse as art classes and mail service for people without homes), but to evaluating and strengthening its approach.

"I come from the model that if ain’t broke, fix it," he says of applying ongoing, measurement-based improvements. "How can we do a better job of helping these people, people who are facing hunger or housing insecurity? Can we help them find their way to reclaim their lives and become more productive citizens?"

Dahl especially appreciates the existing Broad Street Hospitality Collaborative, "but I think the real upside is once you gain the trust, what are the fleet of services and supports that can be provided that truly let these people move back into society?" He’s also a fan of BSM's inclusivity as a faith-based organization that’s "open to all faiths, and people of no faith."

Dahl will officially start as BSM’s new executive director on June 13.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Michael J. Dahl, Broad Street Ministry 

Philadelphia Public History Truck brings 'a houseless museum' to Asian Arts Initiative

How do you get local history out of the museum and into the neighborhood? For about three years, Erin Bernard -- founder of the Philadelphia Public History Truck (PPHT) -- has been exploring the answers: "I had this intention to create projects with people in Philadelphia neighborhoods, as opposed to for them at a museum," she says. 

A traveling oral history and research repository, block party instigator, and capsule of local culture, PPHT and its newest off-road installation are coming soon to the Pearl Street storefront at Asian Arts Initiative (our former On the Ground Home). 

The Temple grad first got the idea for PPHT -- which Bernard calls a culmination of her degrees in journalism and history, her work in nonprofit public relations, and a lot of strolling past food trucks -- back in spring 2013. She approached community groups with her plan. The East Kensington Neighbors Association (EKNA) proved an enthusiastic early partner; former EKNA president Jeff Carpineta even donated a truck.

PPHT is now on the cusp of completing its third year-long neighborhood cycle -- Kensington, then North Philadelphia, and most recently Chinatown North/Callowhill. Its next project in the Fairhill neighborhood (in partnership with Taller Puertorriqueño) is now getting started.

Each of the truck’s "exhibit cycles" has nine parts, beginning with a neighborhood association partnership, growing into oral history interviews, a storytelling and "neighborhood object"-themed block party, archival research, community art happenings, a temporary exhibit in a neighborhood building, and then a compression of the exhibit back into the truck, to bring the stories to other neighborhoods.

At Asian Arts June 3 through 25, PPHT’s will present, "A Houseless Museum: Home and Displacement Around the Vine Street Expressway." Bernard volunteered at the nearby Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission and part of the History Truck’s mission in that neighborhood became researching how to best serve "a transient community."

The exhibit, which features stories from the neighborhood’s homeless community, will have a cabinet with supplies like socks, t-shirts and dry shampoo for those who need them. There will also be a TV installation playing the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation-provided documentary "Save Chinatown," detailing the demolition wrought by construction of the Vine Street Expressway. There will be artwork by Pew fellow and Chinatown North resident Leroy Johnson, and "archival reproductions and text, and space for people to explore actual historical documents," says Bernard.

The show also incorporates work from Bernard’s graduate students in the Museum Exhibition Planning and Design program at University of the Arts, as well as local high school students they mentored.

"I’ve found working in this neighborhood extremely difficult, compared to the work in Kensington and North Philadelphia," explains Bernard of her stint in Callowhill/Chinatown North. "It’s a very transitional community…That’s part of the story."

Not all of the neighborhood’s community groups agree on the way forward when it comes to development, including projects like the Reading Viaduct rail park project.

"There are a lot of serious issues of contention as to who owns the space," she explains. "I think that’s part of the reason it’s been challenging to have a history truck here, but it’s always good to learn something new."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Erin Bernard, the Philadelphia Public History Truck


Follow all our work #OnTheGroundPhilly via twitter (@flyingkitemedia) and Instagram (@flyingkite_ontheground).

On the Ground is made possible by the Knight Foundation, an organization that supports transformational ideas, promotes quality journalism, advances media innovation, engages communities and fosters the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit knightfoundation.org.
 

On the Ground: What does a longtime local print paper mean to Southwest Philadelphia?

Soon Flying Kite will be landing in the Southwest Philadelphia neighborhood of Kingsessing for our On the Ground program, and we’re starting things off by connecting with a publication that’s been on the ground there for a long time: since 1946, to be exact.

The Southwest Globe Times was the inaugural publication of Joseph Bartash's Bartash Printing (a company legacy that continues in Southwest Philly today thanks to Bartash’s son-in-law Sidney Simon and Simon’s son Michael).

From the beginning, the Globe Times focused determinedly on disseminating good news throughout the community. It hit a peak circulation of about 30,000 homes in the 1950s. Bartash, who went on to publish several other community papers, retained the Globe Times for the longest. He ceased publishing it in 2002 and died in 2007 at the age of 93.

"There was a two-year hiatus while various people in the community tried to start it up again," says Ted Behr, a Southwest Community Development Corporation volunteer who manages the Globe Times’s new incarnation. In 2004, Bartash agreed to sell the name to the CDC on the merits of "their unique characteristics as a nonprofit working within the community for its general well-being."

The paper re-appeared in 2005; to this day, Bartash is listed on the masthead as publisher emeritus. The Globe comes out in print and online on the first and third Friday of every month.

"We characterize ourselves as the good news newspaper because we try to only publish the positive activities of people," explains Behr. Southwest Philly "has more than its share of negative [news]. We counterbalance that with stories about people and groups doing things to improve the quality of life here."

Behr is a North Jersey native who moved to Wayne in 1971 after an international career in the pharmaceutical business that also included 16 years of teaching business courses at Eastern University and Beijing University.

He’s a member of Wayne Presbyterian Church and its non-profit community service arm CityLights, which partners with groups in Southwest Philadelphia, and that’s how he began working with Southwest CDC.

"I see my work with the paper as a calling," he says. Globe Times stories typically focus on figures like effective block captains, "outstanding teachers," and neighborhood leaders.

Block captains are integral to the paper’s circulation: For the last four years, they’ve volunteered for door-to-door delivery of about half the paper’s print copies. Other copies are picked up by the public at locations like the ShopRite grocery store in Eastwick -- it's the paper’s largest distribution point, with over 700 copies departing the rack there.

Even in 2016, a hyperlocal print paper is important, argues Behr. When the newspaper re-launched a decade ago, fewer than 15 percent of Southwest Philly homes had internet access. Today, he estimates that percentage has doubled, but there’s still a massive digital divide for many residents.

Southwest CDC is currently working with the 12th Police District and the Philadelphia More Beautiful Committee to increase circulation and delivery of the paper. The publication is partly supported by ads from local businesses, but still operates at a loss of about 20 percent a year, a gap that donors at Wayne Presbyterian fill.

"We like to feel that our readers take ownership of ideas behind the paper," says Behr. "There are good people working in Southwest Philadelphia to make the community better. Dedicated public servants; dedicated people from block to block. We feel that’s what life is all about… We believe that our young people and our elderly people need a positive vision for the future."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Ted Behr, the Southwest Globe Times


Follow all our work #OnTheGroundPhilly via twitter (@flyingkitemedia) and Instagram (@flyingkite_ontheground).

On the Ground is made possible by the Knight Foundation, an organization that supports transformational ideas, promotes quality journalism, advances media innovation, engages communities and fosters the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit knightfoundation.org.

Keep Philadelphia Beautiful litter convenings continue to draw a crowd

Late last year, Keep Philadelphia Beautiful (KPB) launched a series of what Executive Director Michelle Feldman calls "Litter Convenings." They offer a platform for city agencies and residents to come together to tackle the problems of trash and littering in integrated and transparent ways.

The first session took place in October 2015; consortium members included the Commerce Department, the Streets Department, the Philadelphia Association of CDCs and the Philly chapter of the Local Initiative Support Coalition (LISC). There was a follow-up session in January, and on May 11, KPB organized a panel discussion featuring leaders from the Streets Department’s Philly SWEEP, the City’s Community Life Improvement Programs (CLIP), the Department of Licenses and Inspections, the Philadelphia More Beautiful Committee (PMBC) and Philly 311.

Attendees represented groups and agencies such as the Office of Sustainability, the Village of Arts and Humanities, the Friends of Pennypack Park, the Commerce Department, South of South Neighborhood Association, the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD), LISC, the North 22nd Street Business Association, and Councilman William Greenlee’s office. Feldman framed the discussion as a chance to be "proactive rather than reactive" to issues of illegal dumping and trash in Philly.

The lively conversation on the 16th floor of the Municipal Services Building included an update on the City’s growing success in removing unlicensed clothing donation bins, which often become a magnet for illegal dumping. These bins can gain permits for placement on commercially zoned private property, but not on public right-of-ways like sidewalks and street corners, where they routinely reside. After a call to 311, L&I may note and tag the offending bins, but it’s the Streets Department that performs the removal.

Participants also discussed efforts to make Philly 311 -- the city’s non-emergency reporting line for civic issues like graffiti, overgrown vacant lots, illegal dumping and litter -- more accessible to the public through a mobile application and better integration of services with agencies who handle 311 tips.

Misunderstandings can arise when Philly 311 reports a case as closed when the issue has not visibly been resolved. This is because the agency can’t report publicly on outcomes like fines, and other agencies (from PWD to the Streets Department) open their own case file on the issue once they receive it, separate from the Philly 311 report.

Updates from CLIP included graffiti removal efforts and a community service program that employs non-violent ex-offenders on city cleanups. PMBC reported on its active work with up to 800 block captains from across the city. The organization provides supplies for cleanups and sponsors clean block contests with prizes ranging from $300 to $1,000 dollars to be used for further beautification of the block.

In KPB news, applications for the organization’s 2016 microgrants are due on May 27; they include two $,1500 grants and two $1,000 grants (guidelines available here). And on June 22, KPB will team with Young Involved Philadelphia for a Cleaning + Greening 101 panel at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Sources: Keep Philadelphia Beautiful Litter Convening speakers

Worried about lead? The Academy of Natural Sciences asks 'What's in Our Water?'

Last week, the Academy of Natural Sciences hosted "What’s in Our Water?," a free town square discussion and expert Q&A for Philadelphians wondering about the quality of their drinking water after harmful lead levels in Newark, New Jersey and Flint, Michigan made headlines.

David Velinsky, Academy vice president of the Patrick Center for Environmental Research, led the presentation. He introduced Debra McCarty, commissioner of the Philadelphia Water Department; Lynn Thorp, the national campaigns director for Clean Water Action; and Dr. Jerry Fagliano, chair of the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at Drexel’s Dornsife School of Public Health.

Velinsky touched on the source of Philly’s drinking water: the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers, and the history of human use of lead in urban and residential infrastructure and industrial products, from Roman aqueducts to batteries to lead paint and leaded gasoline.

In the 1970s, lead in paint and gasoline accounted for relatively high blood lead levels in the first ever large-scale American survey. According to Fagliano, back then, the average child had a blood lead level of 15 micrograms per deciliter. Now, it’s less than two micrograms per deciliter, thanks to sweeping federal legislation to keep lead out of our homes and fuel.

"Lead is a potent neurotoxin," especially for young people, he explained.

"Water is not the primary source of lead for children," added McCarty: It’s dust and paint from houses built before 1978. There is no lead in any of Philly’s 3,200 miles of water mains. But on the private side, PWD estimates that about 10 percent of Philly homes have lead service lines from the water main to the house. This is likely only in unrenovated homes built before 1950. These homes may also have lead in old plumbing pipes, soldering or fixtures.

PWD works with any concerned client to test, monitor and offer affordable fixes for elevated lead levels that come from private plumbing.

McCarty said those worried about lead in their pipes can simply make sure to run the tap for a few minutes before drinking the water, which flushes out any liquid that might have been sitting in the plumbing lines for more than a few hours. The City also has a program offering zero-interest loans to customers who want to replace private-property lead pipes. PWD has a dedicated webpage for lead inquiries as well as a phone hotline: 215-685-6300.

"Flint is an incredible tragedy in many, many ways," said McCarty as she explained why the same scenario will never happen in Philly. For example, Flint officials changed the source of the water itself, with none of the anti-corrosion treatments residential pipes in Philly have, and did not comply with EPA standards for sampling and reporting lead and copper levels.

"Treatment decisions are always made on the best science," she insisted.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Sources: David Velinsky, the Academy of Natural Sciences; Debra McCarty, the Philadelphia Water Department

Weckerly's Ice Cream to open its first retail location in Fishtown


Philly ice cream connoisseurs have something to look forward to. Currently, if you want some top-rated Weckerly’s Ice Cream, you have to buy it by the pint (or sandwich) at a local cafe, food retailer or farmers' market, but now the company is gearing up to open its very own brick-and-mortar location on a bustling stretch of Girard Avenue in Fishtown.

Fronted by husband-and-wife team Jen and Andy Satinsky, Weckerly’s launched in late 2012 in West Philly’s Spruce Hill neighborhood. In 2014, the micro-creamery moved to Port Richmond’s Globe Dye Works.

"At that time, we really did want to open a retail shop eventually in West Philadelphia," says Andy. But the search proved difficult, so they broadened the hunt. With some help from New Kensington Community Development Corporation, they discovered a 350-square-foot shop at 9 West Girard Avenue, and knew it was the perfect place (they’ll still make their ice cream at Globe Dye Works).

"We definitely wanted a neighborhood," says Andy. "We wanted to be amongst families and homeowners, and people who engage in activities in their neighborhood."

Jen is an experienced pastry chef (her maiden name, Weckerle, inspired the company's moniker). A former bicycle mechanic, Andy eventually left his job to focus on the business full-time.

"[Jen] is the reason we make ice cream and have an ice cream company," he insists. "She’s the heartbeat of everything."

The company is known for unusual flavors such as buckwheat sour cherry and lemon verbena black raspberry, but "we do embrace the classics," he adds. "There’s a place for a vanilla ice cream made with grass-fed milk and cream and good-quality vanilla bean…that tastes like ice cream would have tasted 50 years ago."

Weckerly’s more adventurous combinations are inspired by the company’s mission to source seasonal ingredients from local farms. This is partly why the Satinskys need to grow their business with a retail location, rather than increasing wholesale production. With their own shop, they can stick with their model and showcase small batches of exclusive flavors -- perhaps only five gallons at a time.  

"There are aspects to the way we operate that don’t lend themselves well to a rapidly growing wholesale business," explains Andy, noting the difficulty of scaling up while still working exclusively with local farms.

The new Girard Avenue shop will be open year-round seven days a week, offering a selection of signature ice cream sandwiches and hand-dipped cups and cones, with six rotating ice cream flavors and two sorbets.

They couple isn't sure of an opening date yet, but hope to launch by late summer or early fall. Fans can follow along for the latest @Weckerlys on Twitter and Instagram, and on Facebook.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Andy Satinsky, Weckerly’s 

Local to Global: The Greater Philadelphia Export Plan wants to boost billions in business


How can a local economy make a global debut? In December 2014, Flying Kite spoke with the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia about the launch of its Greater Philadelphia Export Plan, conducted in partnership with the World Trade Center of Greater Philadelphia. After more than a year of market analysis -- along with surveys and interviews with local businesses -- the finalized study and a plan of action were released this month.
 
According to the Economy League, 86 percent of global economic growth is projected to happen outside the U.S. between now and 2020, but only one percent of U.S. companies currently export, with a small majority of that one percent exporting to only one market. Philadelphia already boasts $32 billion in exports annually, but with the right support, that number could grow significantly.
  
This metro export plan, made possible by a $200,000 grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, convened experts (including business leaders and state and federal trade officials) in southeastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and northern Delaware.
 
The initiative got an important boost in January 2015 when study partners learned that they’d be among seven other U.S. cities to join the 2015 cohort of the Brookings Institute’s Global Cities Initiative (in partnership with JPMorgan Chase), designed to support U.S. metros in developing customized trade and export strategies. Philly joined Baltimore, Seattle, Houston, Kansas City, Fresno, Salt Lake City and St. Louis in a nationwide conversation.
 
The Economy League attended the Global Cities Initiative’s first national workshop last February, which focused on how to launch a large-scale export study, and a second workshop in July. By that time, the Philly project’s in-depth market assessments were complete. According to Josh Sevin, Economy League managing director of regional engagement, the focus then became, "How do you convert that [research] into a strategy with some momentum?"
 
Through those assessments, the Economy League got a clearer picture of what it already knew: Philly is often dubbed a post-industrial city, but a highly specialized manufacturing sector remains, with plenty of potential for global growth.
 
When it comes to exports, we usually imagine freighters packed with stuff, but the definition of an export is broader than that. For example, if a cardiology team from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia travels to set up a new facility in Dubai, that’s a Philly export. Same story if a local architect designs a building overseas.
 
"When we talk about a good or a service export, think about where the dollars are coming from, not the point of service," says Sevin. That means any time someone from outside the U.S. comes here for school, or for medical care, or utilizes Philly legal or financial services, that’s an export, even if the office, classroom, or hospital room is right in our city.
 
He hopes the action plan can help spark "a virtuous cycle": the more businesses engage with the global market, the more business owners take note, and say, "Why not me?"
 
The Economy League is considering another opportunity to join a Global Cities cohort geared specifically to developing a foreign direct investment strategy.
 
Later, we’ll take a look a more in-depth look at the new metro export plan through the lens of a participating Philly firm.
 
Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Josh Sevin, the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia

 

PCDC celebrates 50 years of giving Chinatown a voice


In the 1960s, the Chinatown community banded together to oppose a planned expansion of Vine Street that threatened to bulldoze the Holy Redeemer church and school at 10th and Wood Streets. That action led to the birth of the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation (PCDC), which has become an essential neighborhood institution. 

Now PCDC is getting ready to celebrate its 50th anniversary: a major milestone for an organization that has supported a city-wide hub of commerce, culture, community and healthcare. (In 2015, Flying Kite’s On the Ground residence at Asian Arts Initiative wasn’t far from PCDC’s current headquarters at 9th and Vine Streets.)

PCDC got its start via a neighborhood town hall headed by Cecilia Moy Yep, George Moy and Anthony Wong, who all remain on the board of directors today. It was founded in 1966 and officially incorporated in 1969. Since then, its advocacy on behalf of local residents and business owners has spanned fair housing provisions for residents of homes razed in the path of the Convention Center expansion; successful opposition to a new sports stadium in the late 1990s; and a voice in other development projects from the Gallery Mall to Independence Mall. Now, the organization is moving forward on its massive Eastern Tower development.

"This was considered a blighted community at the time," explains PCDC's Sarah Yeung of the group's early days. "The city had cited Chinatown as a place for redevelopment. Chinatown was in and of itself a thriving immigrant community. It was full of families and businesses."

"The core mission was to ensure that this community had a voice in its own future," she continues. About 10 years after its founding -- and successfully scaling back the city’s plans for the Vine Street Expressway -- "they turned toward helping Chinatown to plan for its future as a neighborhood." An initial master plan in the 1970s led to a series of affordable housing developments that are important anchors today.

In 2000, John Chin became PCDC’s executive director, growing and diversifying the organization’s offerings, and leading the 2004 Chinatown and Callowhill Neighborhood Plan process.

Over 8000 people live in Chinatown, says Yeung, and PCDC services directly reach over 1000 clients a year, with a staff of just six people.

"Chinatown has become not just a resident-based community, but also a hub for Asian Americans in the region," she adds. "We serve as this home base for a greater population in the Delaware Valley region. We’re the only Chinatown in the state."

PCDC will celebrate its 50th birthday with an anniversary gala at the National Constitution Center (525 Arch Street) on Friday, May 6 at 6 p.m.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Sarah Yeung, Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation


Follow all our work #OnTheGroundPhilly via twitter (@flyingkitemedia) and Instagram (@flyingkite_ontheground).

On the Ground is made possible by the Knight Foundation, an organization that supports transformational ideas, promotes quality journalism, advances media innovation, engages communities and fosters the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit knightfoundation.org.

KIZ tax credits expand east to booming Old City startup scene


Old City just got a major boost with the expansion of the University City Keystone Innovation Zone (KIZ) across the Schuylkill River and all the way to Front Street -- that means some major new tax credits for the neighborhood’s burgeoning tech sector.

Old City-based Arcweb Technologies hosted the March 23 announcement, with featured remarks from University City Science Center President and CEO Stephen S. Tang, Arcweb CEO Chris Cera, and Mayor Jim Kenney.

If you go into a coffee shop near North 3rd Street in Old City -- or as it’s affectionately known, "N3rd Street" -- and "grab somebody that’s sitting there, most likely they’re a technology worker," said Cera. "I don’t think that’s found anywhere else in Philadelphia."

And he went further than that: "My 10-year outlook…is that this is going to be the tech center of Philadelphia, here in Old City."

Expanding that University City KIZ should contribute to that growth, which Tang called "a pivotal moment in our city’s transformation from a manufacturing economy to an innovation economy."

Former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell instituted the KIZ program "to spur entrepreneurial activity," Tang explained. There are 29 KIZs across the state and three within the City of Philadelphia: the large BioLaunch 611+ zone that spreads north of Lancaster and Girard Avenues and I-95; the Navy Yard KIZ, and the newly expanded University City KIZ.

A KIZ is a special district that offers tax incentives to eligible for-profit companies in the life sciences and technology sectors. The program offers a statewide pool of $25 million toward the credits. An approved KIZ company (applications must be submitted by September 15 of each year) can claim a tax credit equal to 50 percent of its increase in gross revenues in the most recent taxable year over the revenue from the preceding year, earned within the KIZ. This tax credit is capped at $100,000, and for companies whose credit exceeds their tax liability, the credit is saleable for up to $0.90 on the dollar.

In the last decade, 48 early-stage tech and life science companies in the University City KIZ have received almost $8 million in tax credits, with 21 companies nabbing close to $2 million just last year. Now this benefit will extend all the way across the heart of Center City and into Old City.

(For a look at one University City company reaping the KIZ benefit, check out our profile of Graphene Frontiers, working towards big changes in medical diagnostics.)

"As a result of these tax credits, startups are retaining jobs, hiring new employees and developing new products," said Tang. "Not only are KIZ tax credits being invested in our local economy, but they’re also strengthening Philadelphia’s innovation ecosystem."

"It’s very exciting to see what’s happening in Old City," added Mayor Kenney. "The expansion of this [KIZ] will help propel that even faster and further than it has in other parts of the city."

Arcweb is just one company standing to benefit from the change.

"I didn’t want to have a tax credit make me move across town, from people and a place that we call home," said Cera. "I’m glad that we chose to stay and invest here."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Sources: University City KIZ expansion launch speakers

Green City Works expands employment opportunities in University City


So how will University City District (UCD) transform $300,000 into sustainable, career-launching jobs in a traditionally tough business? Last week, we spoke with Job Opportunity Investment Network (JOIN) leaders Hoa Pham and Jennie Sparandara about the Win Win Challenge grant UCD received this winter, following a $50,000 planning grant award in 2015.

The grant-winning Green City Works (GCW) program grew out of the organization’s existing West Philadelphia Skills Initiative (WPSI), which has been connecting long-time unemployed West Philadelphians with job opportunities at major local institutional partners for over five years.

"We were looking at partnerships that would allow us to broaden our demographic base," explains Sheila Ireland, vice president of workforce innovations at UCD, noting that WPSI cohorts tend to skew toward African-American women ages 25 to 35, with jobs in healthcare or educational institutions.  

The idea for GCW was born when Valley Crest landscaping approached UCD about recruiting landscaping technicians from the West Philly area. For an organization already managing up to $400,000 of work in green spaces within its district (think The Porch at 30th Street), a jobs program geared toward landscaping seemed like a natural fit, as well as an opportunity to broaden its programs into a male-dominated industry.

When Sparandara approached UCD about applying for the planning grant, "We said, 'Here is the opportunity for us to not just work on greenspace projects…[but] to do a social venture as well," recalls Ireland. The program targets applicants struggling with challenges such as longterm unemployment or re-entry from the criminal justice system, and helps them build transferrable job skills. "We used that Win Win Challenge planning grant period to prove a couple things: Could we build this program? Could we take on fee-for-service contracts? How would we incorporate?”

The experiment was successful, even in an industry as difficult as landscaping. Though wages in the field are slightly higher than standard minimum wage, the hours can go from dawn to dusk six days a week in the growing season, with workers laid off in the winter. In other words, not a ton of stability. And with many companies recruiting workers on H2B visas, local job-seekers often don't look at the industry for entry level positions.

"Can we change the way the industry looks at workers?" asks Ireland. At GCW, that means peer mentoring and support, a livable wage ($13 an hour to start, versus an industry average of $9), work hours from 7 a.m. - 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, and pay regardless of rainy days that delay the work.

That $300,000 in seed money from JOIN has allowed GCW to hire general manager Brian English and bring in its latest cohort: 12 workers who began a 26-week program on March 28. Those who finish the program stand an excellent chance of joining the GCW staff.

Ireland says the program is important because it honors a range of skills -- GCW’s staffers are people who are happy outdoors and who love community beautification.

"When you activate people’s talents, you really speak to what they should be doing in their lives," she enthuses. "And you can change people’s lives by doing that."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Sheila Ireland, University City District 

The Job Opportunity Investment Network (JOIN) has partnered with Flying Kite to explore how good jobs are created and filled in Greater Philadelphia. Stay tuned as we follow the progress of these exciting grants and track the city's continued workforce development challenges.

 

The Philadelphia Immigrant Innovation Hub launches in Mt. Airy

On February 4, Mayor Jim Kenney joined Mt. Airy USA Executive Director Brad Copeland and others for the official launch of the Philadelphia Immigrant Innovation Hub at 6700 Germantown Avenue.

In his remarks to the diverse crowd of immigrant entrepreneurs, funders and other supporters, Kenney called the room "a beautiful sight."

"This is what Philadelphia looks like," he said. "And this is what the country should look like."

Copeland added that a support and co-working hub for Philly's immigrant entrepreneurs was "very Mt. Airy" -- the neighborhood is already extremely diverse and civically engaged. He praised Hub members’ commitment, drive, energy, vision and "willingness to take risks."

The Hub was made possible by a 2015 Knight Foundation Cities Challenge grant. Speakers credited former Mt. Airy USA leader Anuj Gupta for the inspiration to pursue these dollars for the project. Out of 5,000 applications last year, there were 32 winners -- seven of those from Philadelphia, the most winners from any city in the country.

"[Knight] allows organizations like ours to dream crazy dreams and then challenges us to make them a reality," enthused Copeland.

Sarajane Blair and Jamie Shanker of Mt. Airy USA outlined the new space's offerings, which are made possible with additional financial support and guidance from the nonprofit community lender FINANTA. Services will include "core workshops" (offered through a partnership with the Welcoming Center for New Pennyslvanians), individual business and financial plan development, credit building tools, and community support and engagement helmed by Mt. Airy USA. Hub members will also have access to a co-working space on Germantown Avenue, five financial lending cycles a year, and dedicated networking programs.

"We will do everything we can to help you succeed," said Blair to program participants.

Those eligible for the program must be immigrants to the U.S. who want to be self-employed and have a business idea or plan, but need assistance in starting or growing their business. Applicants can head to piihub.org to get started.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Sources: Philadelphia Immigrant Innovation Hub launch speakers
 

Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau welcomes new ceo and a major national conference


In January, the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau (PHLCVB) welcomed its new president and CEO Julie Coker Graham with an announcement ceremony featuring Mayor Jim Kenney and leaders of the National Medical Association (NMA). America’s oldest and largest organization representing African American healthcare professionals, NMA will hold its annual conference in Philadelphia in July 2017. (Flying Kite heard from Graham a few weeks ago when she spoke at Philly’s Women at the Wheel forum.)

According to Graham, the conference will bring 3500 attendees to the city, with an estimated $5 million economic impact. And it’s extra special because current NMA national president is Philly’s own Dr. Edith P. Mitchell, a medical oncologist and associate director of Jefferson University Health System’s Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center.

Dr. Mitchell is pleased to represent a partnership between Jefferson, the NMA and the City of Philadelphia. When the NMA was formed in 1895, "doctors like me were denied membership in other organizations," she explained at the ceremony. Mitchell appreciates the opportunities at Philly’s many medical and educational institutions and asked, "How we can all work together to fight disparities and head toward healthcare equity for all?"

NMA Executive Director Martin Hamlette introduced Dr. Mitchell with the same themes. He pointed to the NMA's many corporate and political partnerships that tackle the issues both African-American physicians and their patients face, with a special focus on chronic conditions, aging and wellness, and fair access to healthcare.

"We get lobbied by a lot of cities," said Hamlette of deciding to bring the 2017 conference to the Pennsylvania Convention Center. (The last NMA conference held here was in 2003.) Philly was chosen not only because it’s a vibrant, "progressive" city where it’s good to conduct business, but also because it’s "a city that embraces diversity."

"Philadelphia is going to lead toward healthcare equity for all of us," added Dr. Mitchell.

According to PHLCVB, the organization’s convention bookings over the next several years will bring close to two million visitors to the city and generate an estimated $4 billion in regional economic impact.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Sources: PHLCVB and NMA speakers

 

Saying goodbye (for now) to Callowhill with a look back at neighborhood voices


As Flying Kite transitions from its most recent On the Ground residency at Asian Arts Initiative, it’s worth looking back on neighborhood voices from the past few years. After all, this area just north of Center City has many names and many stories.

Last week, we spoke with Mural Arts freelance project manager Dave Kyu. He's been involved with the Asian Arts Social Practice Lab since 2012. His past projects include "Sign of the Times," which collected thoughts and reflections from the neighborhood and broadcast them on signs mounted on a truck driving around the city, and "Write Sky," which solicited ideas from community members that became messages in the sky with the help of sky-writing pilots.

To launch projects like this -- including his current work on a light and sound installation near the Viaduct -- he needed to get to know the neighborhood. Kyu began with a small survey of about fifteen people, hoping to learn what people’s perceptions of the area were. He recently shared the results with Flying Kite. The themes raised in surveys conducted in late 2012 through early 2013 reflect dramatic neighborhood change.

One question he asked his subjects was a deceptively simple one: What do you call this neighborhood?

To some, it’s Chinatown North, but it’s also Callowhill and "North of Vine." Others call it "the Viaduct area" -- certainly a label that’s gaining traction now -- and others call it "Eraserhood" or the "Loft District."

Kyu says all of these names just represent different factions of people trying to preserve what they see as their piece of the neighborhood as development advances.

Back then, respondents noted that the area was becoming a haven for the "creative class" and other entrepreneurs. The addition of galleries, bars and restaurants -- from artists and collectives at the 319 gallery building to nightlife startups like Brick and Mortar and W/N W/N Coffee Bar, and services like GoBeer -- have borne this out.

Kyu also asked subjects, "What is the best thing that could happen in this neighborhood in the next year?" Answers included a launch to the first stage of the new Viaduct Park (on its way), and "some type of festival that is accessible for all." Last fall’s Pearl Street Passage project offered a taste of this possibility.

The survey also noted that the area was "ripe for development" and changing extremely fast. Projects from the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation’s Eastern Tower to new high-end residential units on Spring Garden, speak to expanding live/work opportunities in the neighborhood.

Keep an eye out for our continued coverage of happenings in Callowhill as it searches for its 21st century identity. And come say hello in Strawberry Mansion, where we will begin our next On the Ground residency soon.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Dave Kyu
, Mural Arts Project and Asian Arts Initiative

Follow all our work #OnTheGroundPhilly via twitter (@flyingkitemedia) and Instagram (@flyingkite_ontheground).

On the Ground is made possible by the Knight Foundation, an organization that supports transformational ideas, promotes quality journalism, advances media innovation, engages communities and fosters the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit knightfoundation.org.
 
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