It has been a decade in the making, but soon West Philadelphia will be home to 20 units of affordable housing for artists and people in need.
The project will cost $7.2 million and will renovate a vacant lot at 4050 Haverford Ave. The construction should be completed by December 2016.
“It has been a long time coming,” Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, whose district includes most of West Philadelphia, said. “I supported [the People's Emergency Center] to get the land from the city, and we have tried to get this project going for many years, but finally we are here, and it looks like it is finally going to come into fruition.”
PZS Architects will lead the design of the three-story building on Haverford Avenue, which will include units with one, two or three bedrooms. These new apartments will be available to residents with income of 20, 50 and 60 percent of the area median income.
“This building will help the area physically look nicer and be nicer,” Blackwell said. “It will help bring the artists together. And it will also be low-income housing so it will help people who would otherwise have trouble. Overall, it’s going to be great for the community.”
PEC has opened a total of 250 housing units throughout Philadelphia and has invested more than $65 million in revitalizing neighborhoods in the area. PEC has created housing for individuals who have special needs, mental or physical health issues or substance abuse issues, and it has served as transitional housing for women leaving shelters.
There has been rapid real estate development in University City, which has spread to nearby neighborhoods. The new low-income housing will be a few blocks away from the LEED Platinum Corridor near 41st and Market streets and right across from a 12-unit apartment complex that will open in November for $1.275 million.
Kathleen Desmond, the president of PEC, said the development of affordable housing is a welcome sign for many in West Philadelphia.
“This project grew out of the interest from the community. People in the community were afraid that they were going to be pushed out by medical facilities or by universities,” Desmond said. “Also, this part of Philadelphia has a very rich history of art and music, and people in the community did not want to lose that rich cultural history.”
To accommodate the artists, the rooms will have high ceilings, lots of sunlight and a studio space in each unit.
Artists will also have a community room that will offer a prominent space for exhibitions and workshops. The community space will host art classes for local residents, especially for children who do not have opportunities to practice art in school.
“Art is a very powerful agent for change and for healing. It is a great way of bringing the community together," Desmond said.
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