Category Archives: Development

Historic Preservationist Of Parkside, Mr. Jim Brown, None Better – By Jim Brown

Photo with Mr. James L. Brown, IV & Mrs. Charlotte
Brown is a picture of Mr. Brown’s first hand-built structure
from a North Philly alley near Temple in 1962.

Recently, I visited the home of the great historic preservationist, Mr. James Leroy Brown, IV and his wife Charlotte. The 80-year old Mr. Brown sat down with this reporter of, no relation, to talk to me about his work, his life and the great reputation he’s built over 54 years as a historic preservationist in Philadelphia’s East Parkside section of West Philadelphia.

Here is Mr. Brown’s Journey in Parkside

Starting his restoration company, the Parkside Historic Preservation Corporation (PHPC) in 1964, James L. Brown was to become an African-American preservationist that few had known but over his career stood out as one of the best in the City of Brotherly Love.

Mr. Brown originally worked as a biologist at Temple Medical Center as a medical researcher from 1960  to 1965.  He began work under Dr. Harry S. Shay who was the Department Head of Gastroenterology at the Fels Research Institute at Temple University.

Mr. Brown was born in 1937. His father was a doctor and his mother was a schoolteacher in the segregated south. He says back then many of the landmark cases in civil rights dealing with school cases were won in Virginia.

Mr. Brown and his wife Charlotte moved from Virginia to Philadelphia in 1961. Mr. Brown rented their first apartment in the Parkside area from the landlord, Mr. William Henderson who was one of the first blacks to purchase one of the mini-mansions on Parkside Avenue at 4224.

Having the love of his life Charlotte Brown, a schoolteacher whom he met through her sorority sister an AKA (Alpha Kappa Alpha) at Whitcomb Court Elementary School in Richmond, Virginia on December 6, 1958.

“It was my first teaching job,” says Mrs. Brown

They both graduated from historically black colleges in Virginia. Mr. Brown is a member of the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity and graduated from Virginia Union in Richmond and Mrs. Charlotte is a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority and graduated from St. Paul College in Lawrenceville.

Mrs. Brown later worked as a schoolteacher at the Morton Mc Michael Elementary School in Mantua during the early 1960’s when they moved to Philadelphia. The two would marry in 1961. They have two adult children, son James L. Brown, V, is a financial planner, a restorator and a property manager. His daughter Nancy W. (Brown) McRae, Esquire and teaches legal writing in Washington, DC at the University of the District of Columbia. They both have two children each.

They worked together to build a life and a business that would benefit and celebrate a community that has reflected their life’s commitment to each other for 56 years and counting.

The Parkside area was going through an ethnic change as the Browns explained. This happens when parts of an area of one ethnic group move out and another ethnic group moves in to create and establish themselves as the new community residents. Mr. Brown stated that the first black to reside in the East Parkside area was a gentleman named Postel Vaughn and he lived on Parkside Avenue.

This was a period when Jewish families began moving out of the Parkside area and African-Americans families were moving in. The buildings were not in very good condition and needed to be rehabbed to the proper living conditions that were expected for families to live in according to Mr. Brown.

“Mrs. Brown says her husband’s first fight to defend his neighborhood was to join forces with the community and protest and boycott a nuisance bar at 42nd Street. People were coming out that bar getting into accidents. We got a petition, went to city hall and wanted that bar removed. This was a movement in Parkside and people were very supportive of the things we fought for in this community.

While living at the Apartments with his wife, in his off hours, a young James Leroy Brown was working with his landlord William Henderson and began rehabbing and working on houses in the neighborhood of East Parkside.

Mrs. Brown mentioned during our recent interview that, “redlining in Parkside in the 1960’s was so prevalent that they were forced to use one income to sustain their family. We saved up enough money to buy our first building, which was a 6-unit apartment building at 4218 Parkside Avenue.

In order for us to get funding and assistance,” says Mrs. Brown. “It was easier for us to get funds if we were restoring and preserving the homes that were already there like they were before (run down and dilapidated).”

“We looked at each other,” adds Mrs. Brown. “And we said, we can save this block. We then started cleaning up the 4200 blocks of Parkside Avenue. ” Mrs. Brown says, “It was absolutely necessary that we sought funding for the work that we were doing. Those areas of funding included the City of Philadelphia, State of Pennsylvania and the Federal government level. We looked for grants and partnerships in order to achieve all of the restorations that was completed here.”

Mr. Brown and wife Charlotte say they were thankful to the Berean Savings & Loan Association at 52nd & Chestnut Street in West Philadelphia. This was the historic black bank that gave them the loan to purchase their first building. People like Mr. Jim Hughes (father of our State Senator Vincent J. Hughes), were instrumental in making that dream happen for the Browns.

Both generations of the Hughes family, the late Jim Hughes and current State Senator Vincent J. Hughes have played an important role in the ventures of Mr. Brown’s Historic Preservation efforts. “Vincent Hughes has been to many of our ribbon-cutting ceremonies,” says Mrs. Brown.  Also, Mrs. Brown reminds us that the wonderful churches in this community have been very supportive of Mr. Brown’s efforts and participation as a community activist over the years.

Mr. Brown was able to meet and network his skills with other community leaders like the Rev. Dr. Andy Jenkins and late Dr. Herman C. Wrice who were having similar issues in their community of Mantua in the early 1960’s when the cultural transitions began for both Mantua and Parkside.

When working for the Redevelopment Authority in the mid 60’s, I met Andy Jenkins of Mantua while he was developing the Mantua Community Planners in Mantua and I was reviewing their plans for their community.

Mr. Brown also worked alongside Rev. Jenkins, and the late Dr. Wrice, who came together to build a set of row homes on the 3600 block of Warren Street across from the former University City High School in the late 1960’s with tenants still currently residing there.

Mr. Brown has made a career in the neighborhood preservation that has captured the eye of thousands when they see his works along the 4100 and 4200 blocks of Parkside Avenue.

In 1994, fire struck The Brentwood Apartments and destroyed a majority of the properties as shown in a photo and article in the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper on Wednesday, June 22, 1994, in the Metro section B from page “Fire Hits Parkside Restoration Row”. Mr. Brown is quoted as saying “Just another challenge”.

Mr. Brown was able to restore the buildings as you see them today from the devastation that the damage had done to the properties during the fire. Wife Charlotte adds, “He doesn’t take ‘No’ for an
answer” when things or problems come up. He has been celebrated with many awards and accolades such as the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia in 1996, the Rudy Bruner Award for Excellence in the Urban Environment in 1999 and the Henry A. Jordan Award for his Outstanding Historic Preservation at the local level for his community.

The Parkside Historic District was created in 1983  because of the preservation work of Mr. Brown. His work in the Parkside area is on the National Register of Historic Places.

All of Mr. Brown’s historic and restored buildings such as The Lansdowne (4102 Parkside Ave.), The Brentwood (4200 – Parkside Ave. and The Brantwood (4146 and 4150-52) can be seen throughout the Parkside area.

For the past few years, The Pennsylvania Lottery uses his building at 42nd & Parkside Avenue as its great backdrop to advertise their winter commercials to promote its lottery scratch-off games. I asked Mr. Brown the question, what advice would you give a student from the School of the Future about becoming a historic preservationist? Mr. Brown responded by saying, “My mother said always give back to your community,” states Mr. Brown. “I had talents and things I could do with my hands.”

“Also, to create something that’s long standing in your community,” adds Mr. Brown. “They should have an interest in history. I want the young people to be passionate about why they want to be a preservationist and work in your community to complete your restoration projects to give your community a sense of pride.”

During Mr. Brown’s journey, he has accomplished many things and done the one thing that many often fail to do, that’s to give something back to your community. That sentiment is a favorite staple of Mr. Brown’s thinking, along with his feeling of the importance of working together and sharing his life with his soul-mate-Charlotte Brown.

Mr. Brown met Muhammad Ali, arguably, the greatest heavyweight champ of all time. He also met Joe Louis, a true champion from his era. Doug Wilder, the first black governor of Virginia, was a good friend and he grew up with Spotswood Robinson and Oliver Hill families and both were civil rights lawyers in Virginia during the segregation era.

The people and celebrities that Mr. Brown has met and befriended gives you a wow moment to think about the people you may meet in your life when creating a passion and need to serve not only your community but your heritage as well.

“As I reflect on the goals that I set out to achieve with my Historic Preservation Company in Parkside,” reflects Mr. Brown. “I have overachieved my goals. Really to my surprise, with belief, faith, and some hard knocks, things worked out. But stay in there brother and everything will be alright.” Mr. Brown has left an indelible mark on the Parkside area and throughout Philadelphia.

“I’d like to see the fruits of my work continue through others,” says Mr. Brown. “In particularly through my children. With the courage and belief that they can do what seems to be impossible can be done. And to do your best and that’s all I can say to them.”

The last question asked to Mr. Brown was about his health and from what I saw during our interview was a tall, lanky man and he walked with a cane. He was reserved, initially but when the conversations started, Mr. Brown was able to give me the information I needed for this story about his life’s work.

“He suffered a mild stroke in December of 2013,” explains Mrs. Brown. “He’s been a real soldier. He’s fought it and he’s doing the very best that he can. And he stopped smoking.”

“It’s been a nice ride with my husband”, says wife Charlotte Brown. Mr. James Leroy Brown turned 81 on August 30th. Happy Birthday Mr. Brown from the Parkside Journal.

This was a great two and a half hour engaging conversation with Mr. Brown and his wife Charlotte that I was excited to have with community history. Know your neighborhood heroes because they live among us.

Email Jim Brown at brownthefansview@netzero.net

 

 

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Brandywine Realty Trust Selects the Centennial Parkside CDC as a Co-developer on Schuylkill Yards

Philadelphia, PA (March 15, 2018) –  Centennial Parkside Community Development Corporation announced today it has been selected by Brandywine Realty Trust as a co-developer for the initial phase of Schuylkill Yards, which will include the development of Drexel Square, a 1.3 acre community park at the corner of 30th and Market Streets, and the reimagining of the Bulletin Building.  The 20-year, $3.5 billion mixed-use, master planned project, developed by Brandywine Realty Trust on land owned by both Brandywine and Drexel University, will bring to Philadelphia a next-generation innovation community defined by thoughtful place-making, civic engagement, and quality execution.

As part of Brandywine’s Neighborhood Engagement Initiative and ongoing commitment to the surrounding community, Brandywine selected the Centennial Parkside CDC in a competitive process to provide co-development services on the Drexel Square and Bulletin Building projects. The Centennial Parkside CDC will work as an integral part of the team helping to create community connections to Schuylkill Yards so that all West Philadelphia residents have the opportunity to share in the economic progress exemplified by this project.

“We received a number of high quality proposals from local CDCs making our decision a difficult one, but we are very pleased to have selected Centennial Parkside CDC as our co-developer for the initial phase of development on Schuylkill Yards,” said Jerry Sweeney, president and CEO of Brandywine Realty Trust. “We have established a meaningful role for Centennial Parkside CDC that will generate revenue and create both human resource and capital capacity to foster growth within their organization. This is a practice we will continue to implement for each project within the master plan for Schuylkill Yards.”

Chris Spahr, Executive Director of the Centennial Parkside CDC stated, “We are thrilled to be selected to work with such an experienced team at Brandywine Realty. By contributing to such a transformative project we will serve as an important community engagement arm for these projects to ensure they provide benefits to the surrounding West Philadelphia neighborhoods. Additionally, the injection of resources from Brandywine will help us increase our programmatic work in East Parkside, which is highly aligned with creating more healthy neighborhoods around Schuylkill Yards.”

About Brandywine Realty Trust:

Brandywine Realty Trust (NYSE: BDN) is one of the largest, publicly traded, full-service, integrated real estate companies in the United States with a core focus in the Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Austin markets. Organized as a real estate investment trust (REIT), Brandywine Realty Trust owns, develops, leases and manages an urban, town center and transit-oriented portfolio. Brandywine Realty Trust’s deep commitment to their communities was recognized by NAIOP naming Brandywine the 2014 Developer of the Year — the highest honor in the commercial real estate industry.

The Centennial Parkside CDC is a 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization located in the East Parkside neighborhood of West Philadelphia. Its mission is to preserve, promote and revitalize East Parkside through partnerships with businesses and institutions and programs that engage residents, increase opportunity, and grow a diverse, thriving community.

Ten Things To Look For In Parkside in 2018

Above is a rendering of What Centennial Village complex will look like.

Story by Manuel Smith

Since our launch in 2013, The Parkside Journal has covered the growing interest and literal rising-up of new construction, new activities, & new interest in our neighborhood. We remember the days when adding a new coat of paint to a home on the block was big news. Now some of these same homes are undergoing major renovations, while new projects are being built on land that was long vacant.  Like our neighbors, we’re celebrating this time of good fortune and progress for our area. Renewed attention from city leaders, realtors, and new neighbors in Parkside has been a long time coming, and we’re happy to see long-time promises of investments and new infrastructure come to light. But also like our neighbors, we’re concerned about how all of the new construction, new infrastructure, and new neighbors will affect us. Will these new projects affect our homes and their value? Will I still be able to afford to live close to my neighbors in the years to come? Will all of these new projects bring new opportunities for my family and friends? Will I still be able to enjoy my quality of life in Parkside?

These questions are legitimate. And to be honest, we don’t have all of the answers. No one does. That gets to the heart of why our Publisher, Michael Burch, launched The Parkside Journal in the first place. It was to ensure that we, as neighbors, are informed about all of the changes that are occurring in our community, and that we’re able to hear first about projects that we’ll want to support in the future. With this in mind, here is a list of nine projects under development, that we are aware of. These are by no means the only projects currently underway, merely the ones we are know about.

A list of nine projects to watch in Parkside for the upcoming year. These projects (and sometimes events), listed in no particular order are ones that promise great change for our neighborhood in the upcoming year. We’ll also give you our take on why they’re important and the reasons we’ll be following their progress closely.

We hope you will save and share this list with your neighbors and friends. And that you’ll help us keep on top of these developments and others by emailing us at parksidejournal@yahoo.com We’ll get through this time of progress and change together, just like Parkside neighbors have always done.

Centennial Village/52nd. & Parkside

The plan: A mixed use development that is completely transforming West Parkside, with nearly 50 new apartments and retail spaces expected to come online in the Spring of 2018. However, it is expected that most of the buildings will be finished by the end of this year. People are booking into the housing units now. They have received over 200 applications for housing, most coming from the Parkside area. There is a long wait list at this time.

The Journal’s Take: We’re excited about this latest remake of West Parkside and glad that the developers are making this inclusive, with affordable apartments being made available.

 

EMSCO New Headquarters/Near 49th and Parkside

The Plan: The minority-owned firm that provides products and services to the scientific community plans construction of a $10 million dollar new headquarters building.

The Journal’s Take: Keeping our neighborhood business-friendly is the way to keep jobs and opportunities for development in our neighborhood. There’s still room for more business development in Parkside. If this project goes well, hopefully others will follow.

 

Centennial Commons/Parkside Edge/Along Parkside Journal

The plan: The Parkside Edge is the first of a two phase project called Centennial Commons. This project is the vision of the Park Conservancy. This is about more than just new swings, seats, and benches in the park. This project is improving community connections to the park through new crosswalks, bike lanes, and other improvements along Parkside to make it easier to access the park. Phase 1 will be completed in the spring of 2018.

The Journal’s Take: Our proximity to Fairmount Park is one of the neighborhoods’ biggest assets. We’re in support of anything that makes access to the park safer, especially for seniors and youth. This development is a game changer for Parkside.

 

Please Touch Museum Outdoor Expansion                                                                                                                                                                                              The plan: PTM recently received a design grant award from the Community Design Collaborative to create plans for a state-of-the-art expansion of the outdoor Please Touch Garden. The new area will include interactive play & programming space designed to engage and delight children in nature and provide opportunities for STEM learning.

The Journal’s Take: Fundraising for this project is scheduled to kick off soon, and we’re encouraged with the community outreach PTM has already done before shovels even hit the ground. They are showing that community input is valuable to their programs.

 

School Reform Commission Dissolved                                          

The Plan: Just before Thanksgiving, the SRC voted to dissolve, with the Mayor and City Council set to elect a locally controlled school board in the coming year.

The Journal’s Take: Parkside is home to at least two large charter schools already. Plus a new school from KIPP is projected to open on Parkside Avenue soon. Will a new school board approve more? Will these educational options change or improve for the students in our neighborhood?

 

Zoo New Main Restaurant/Philadelphia Zoo

The Plan: Officials from the Zoo are promoting a multi million dollar investment program, in which the start would be a new grand restaurant near the Zoo’s entrance that would also host special events and have evening access for the public.

The Journal’s Take: While final design is still underway, the Journal is encouraged by the community engagement on this idea already being led by Zoo Vice President Kenneth Woodson. There’s also the promise of more employment opportunities at the restaurant for neighborhood residents, plus a brand-new destination to take guests out to dinner!

 

Lancaster Avenue Redevelopments/Lancaster Avenue

The Plan: The People’s Emergency Center (PEC), has a long track record of building, maintaining, and supporting affordable housing options in West Philadelphia. Recently the community development arm announced a focus on five neighborhoods, Saunders Park, West Powelton, Belmont, Mantua, and Mill Creek.

The Journal’s Take: We’re excited to see this neighborhood corridor become invigorated with new life. Any additional marketing, planning, and support to keep the corridor alive is good for us all. PEC is off to a great start with http://www.lancasteravephilly.com/ which promotes the avenue as a destination.

 

Shofuso Japanese House and Garden/Lansdowne Drive and Horticultural Drive

The Plan: We believe one of the park’s hidden gems, right in our backyard, has been underrated for a long time. The team there has been working on building a superior calendar of special events along with additional community outreach to make the center more accessible than ever.

The Journal’s Take: This December, Shofuso extended their season to include new weekend hours through December 10. They will also host a Japanese New Year (Oshogatsu) event with fresh greenery, traditional decorations, and a winter kimono display. Complimentary green tea and slippers will be available to guests and free tours will share Japanese holiday traditions. Admission is only $2 for ACCESS Card holders, and free for active duty military members and children under

 

Ucity Square & Schuylkill Yards                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The Plan: These two massive projects, at a cost of more than $3 Billion dollars, plan to remake two large portions of West Philadelphia, bringing more office and apartment spaces to the area. Both sites were formally pitched to Amazon by the city as potential location for their HQ2 plan.

The Journal’s Take: If 50,000 new jobs immediately came to this area, you can imagine what that might do to our property values, not to mention traffic and congestion woes. We’ll watch to see what occurs.

 

Former Mutual Life Building Development/46th & Market Street        

The Plan: Like the rest of West Philadelphia, we were disappointed in the Kenney Administration’s cancellation of the $200 million dollar-plus plan to relocate the headquarters of the police department here in favor of a new location in Center City. The promise of new jobs and activity on this long dormant corner will have to wait even longer.

The Journal’s Take: We’re cautiously optimistic here. Kudos to Mayor Kenney to being open about the process for future developments here. At a recent Spruce Hill community meeting, he says that the city is on track with choosing a new developer by April 2018. He also added that local and minority workers will be hired on any construction that will eventually occur there.

 

Centennial Parkside’s Executive Director Chris Spahr, Receives Drexel Fellowship

by Michael Burch

Chris Spahr, the Executive Director of The Parkside Community Development Corporation is in the news again this month after being awarded the Lindley Foundation Fellowship for Urban Innovation. Chris earned the fellowship for having an innovative concept about bringing positive change to East Parkside.

For the past few years he and Mr. Christopher Scott, Parkside CDC Board president, have been developing a plan to foster an energy development district here in East Parkside. The plan involves establishing solar panels in a network or solar farm configuration to generate green energy. These panels would be erected on land not generally in use, or on parking lots in the area. This plan will not greatly change the look of the community or debase the park.

The energy produced in this method would be owned by our Parkside Centennial CDC. The collected electrical energy could be resold to institutional partners like The Please Touch Museum or the Philadelphia Zoo, among others. According to Mr. Spahr both institutions have expressed interest in the plan and they hope to grow interest among other businesses and institutions.

The monies earned from these transactions would build capital for the CDC and allow them to invest in the Parkside community. This could mean money for sidewalk repairs, street light installations, home weatherization programs, etc. Where these funds would be spent would depend on residents. This program could become a national model that started here in Parkside.

The Lindley Fellowship brings with it a 15-thousand-dollar cash endowment and 6 months of technical support to the project. This is a plan with real growth potential and the Parkside Journal will keep you updated on their progress.

 

 

Could A New Monorail Take A ‘Bite’ Out of Zoo Area Traffic Crunch?

by Manuel McDonnell-Smith

The image above is not the proposed Monorail for the planned zoo project. We show this file photo of what the Monorail could possibly look like.

Executives from the Philadelphia Zoo are on tour asking residents of Parkside and Mantua to support a new train plan from 30th Street Station. Anyone from Lancaster Avenue to Leidy Avenue knows the weekend routine – get into your car and avoid 34th and Girard Ave if you want to get anywhere fast. Zoo crowds are notorious for backing up traffic in and around the neighborhood. While things have gotten somewhat better in the past few years with the addition of the parking deck at the Zoo Transportation Center and other slight traffic pattern changes on Girard Avenue and 34th Street, backups are still a too-often occurrence.

So, with packed roads and less-than-ideal public transit options for Zoo Visitors, where should we look for solutions to the traffic nightmare around 34th and Girard? “Up high” says Kenneth Woodson, Vice President for Community Relations at the Zoo who has been circling around the neighborhood touting a new Zoo community outreach plan, part of which includes the monorail, which if built, would operate on a new line to be built between the Zoo and 30th Street Station, with a possible future extension from the Zoo up Parkside Avenue to the Mann Music Center.

With a high-flying idea like this, you might think Woodson is over-inspired by the runaway success of the Zoo Balloon, which sends huge crowds into the air over the Zoo each weekend. But a recently released study published by the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) shows there is some merit to the Zoo’s idea.

In the DVRPC analysis, commissioned by both the Zoo and SEPTA, a 1.5-mile system is envisioned beginning at 30th Street Station and then snaking northward along SEPTA’s Powelton Rail Yard through University City and Mantua before making a stop at the Zoo. An expansion across Girard Avenue, and up Parkside Avenue providing access to the Please Touch Museum and the Mann Music Center “is only a possibility”, says Woodson, but it’s enough of one that conceptual plans for the actual Zoo stop have not been finalized. If the eventual monorail line stops in front of the Zoo, then future expansion north and west would be stymied by the large four track Northeast Corridor Bridge that abuts Zoo’s western boundary. “Going along Zoological Avenue could offer options for an overpass,” explains Woodson.

But those Parkside Avenue options are far-off in potential phase two plans. There’s still much to be decided in the first phase of the project. Two guideway options currently exist, one that stays closer to the rail yard, and another that would stop closer to the existing street grid along 32nd Street. Under either scenario, neighborhood access would be provided by stops at Race Street, Spring Garden Street and on Mantua Avenue. Authors of the study propose that operations be kept “simple, realistic, and easy to understand”, who plan service to operate with ten-minute headways.

While the report authors and Zoo Officials are optimistic about simple operation, much of the monorail concept faces complex questions. What would it look like, and how big would it be? Will residents in neighborhoods with historic character like University City, Mantua, and Parkside support a dual-track modern monorail running down the streets?

Another issue is ridership. If you build it, will they come? In the most optimistic ridership projections provided by the study about 6,000 riders would use the system daily. But that’s only if the system offered free fares. With full-fare added, the daily total of passengers drops to just over 1,400.

The Zoo is also promoting the monorail plan as a way to relieve congestion caused by crowds visiting the Zoo. But even free monorail service is only expected to capture just over 220 riders daily. Most riders using the potential service are forecast to use the neighborhood stops, not the one at the Zoo. Woodson says the Zoo prefers to see the project in terms of “total ridership: how many residents will get to ride and the opportunity for access to other cultural institutions in the area”.

SEPTA, the most-likely potential operator of the system, and one of the stakeholders in the eventual fare decision on the monorail system declined to offer formal comment other than to confirm their participation in the study and to commit to “continue to work with area stakeholders in the future.”

Marjorie Ogilvie, chairperson of the Business Association of West Parkside was one of the first in the neighborhood to learn of the monorail plan and is initially supportive of the plan. “We need more viable direct transportation in this community. What we really need is a train stop [along SEPTA’s Paoli Line] to allow our residents access in and out for work and play. But we’ll support a monorail if that’s what we can get.”

Woodson says additional community outreach events are planned for later this month where he hopes to get more feedback from neighbors as the Zoo plans the next steps in promoting the project. He says that there could be additional benefits beyond traffic relief from this project, adding that “this could be an huge opportunity for economic development.”

Breaking: Permanent Closure of 48th and Lancaster Church announced

Our Mother of Sorrows Church at 48th and Lancaster Ave will no longer serve as a worship site of Saint Ignatius of Loyola Parish and will close as a Roman Catholic Church announced the Archdiocese of Philadelphia on Monday.  Over the past year, there was minimal attendance at the once-monthly mass, and no weddings or funerals were held. Future plans for the large site are still to be determined. The full press release announcing the closure is below.

Contextual Background

In January 2013, Our Mother of Sorrows Parish merged with Saint Ignatius of Loyola Parish, both located in West Philadelphia, as part of the Parish Areas Pastoral Planning Initiative that has been ongoing in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

At that time, the Our Mother of Sorrows Church building became a worship site of Saint Ignatius of Loyola Parish and was available for the occasional celebration of Mass, funerals and weddings as is customary whenever possible in the case of a parish merger.

Additional information regarding the merger can be found at the following link http://archphila.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/2013.html.

Today’s Announcement

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced today that Archbishop

Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. has approved the relegation of the Our Mother of Sorrows Church building to profane but not sordid use effective October 9, 2017.  This formal, canonical designation means that the church will no longer serve as a worship site and will close as a Roman Catholic Church.

This information was shared with Saint Ignatius of Loyola parishioners at all Masses during the weekend of September 2-3.  A copy of the official canonical decree regarding this matter can be found at http://archphila.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Signed-Decree-of-Relegation-Signed-by-CJC-and-SPB.pdf.

The formal request to close this worship site originated from the parochial administrator of Saint Ignatius of Loyola Parish together with his parish pastoral and finance councils.  The request was then reviewed by the Archdiocesan Council of Priests and presented to Archbishop Chaput, who, after a careful review of all supporting factors, made the final decision.

Our Mother Of Sorrows Church – 48th and Lancaster – source: Google

Additional Background

During the 2016-2017 fiscal year, Saint Ignatius of Loyola Parish incurred expenses exceeding $100,000 associated with care for the properties associated with the former Our Mother of Sorrows Parish.  Furthermore, at the conclusion of the 2015-2016 fiscal year, Saint Ignatius of Loyola Parish experienced a deficit of approximately $230,000 while having an approximate savings of $17,000.  During the same fiscal year, Saint Ignatius of Loyola Parish maintained an approximate debt of $80,000.

Since May 2016, one Mass per month was celebrated at Our Mother of Sorrows Church. That monthly Mass was discontinued in February 2017 due to minimal attendance.  No funerals or weddings have been celebrated.

When Our Mother of Sorrows and Saint Ignatius of Loyola merged, all real estate holdings, assets and debts of the former Our Mother of Sorrows Parish were transferred to the newly formed Saint Ignatius of Loyola Parish.  These transfers are standard procedure in the case of all parish mergers.

As such, the former Our Mother of Sorrows church building, along with the former school building and former convent is the property of Saint Ignatius of Loyola Parish.  The future disposition of these buildings will be determined by the parochial administrator of Saint Ignatius of Loyola Parish in consultation with his parish pastoral and finance councils in a manner consistent with providing for parish viability and sustainability.

Fairmount Park Conservancy Breaks Ground on Centennial Commons Project

By Michael Burch

 

Last month there was a special ceremony held on Parkside Avenue in Fairmount Park. It was the groundbreaking program to formally recognize the start of construction on Phase 1 of the Centennial Commons project. This venture is a major initiative of the Fairmount Park Conservancy.  This project is designed to create a more welcoming public space along Parkside Avenue from 41st and Parkside to Belmont Avenue.

If you are a regular reader of the Parkside Journal, then you may be somewhat familiar with the project for we have often written about its planned start. The new layout designed by Studio Bryan Hanes will include innovative play spaces for kids and young people, seating areas, a rain garden, and better access for Parkside residents to nearby cultural institutions. The groundbreaking took place on April 20th and is considered the physical start of the project. The expected completion time will be the Fall of 2017.

Centennial Commons is part of the national Reimagining the Civic Commons initiative, which seeks to counter growing economic and social fragmentation in our cities by revitalizing and connecting parks, libraries, community centers and other public spaces. In 2015, Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park Conservancy and local partners embarked on a three-year, $11 million pilot project of Reimagining the Civic Commons, supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the William Penn Foundation. The project has since added additional partners and expanded to four other cities. The work that has begun is only Phase 1 of the Centennial Commons project, called “Parkside Neighborhood Edge.” This work will make it easier for pedestrians to cross Parkside Avenue, where they will be able to rest on new bench swings and benches or stroll among new ornamental plantings and trees – including 68 new shade trees and over 42 species of perennials, grasses, and shrubs covering 67,000 square feet.

“Centennial Commons is an outstanding example of what happens when our public agencies work together to bring innovative projects to our Parks and Recreation facilities,” said Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney. “I want to thank the leadership at Parks and Recreation, Water Department, Streets Department, and Commerce Department for sharing my vision for a cleaner, greener city for all Philadelphia residents. I also want to thank Fairmount Park Conservancy, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and William Penn Foundation for their leadership on the Centennial Commons project.”

After speaking to the larger audience gathered the Mayor found the time to stop and talk to us and answer a few questions. I asked him what his thoughts were on the Parkside community and how this new park will enhance the neighborhood.

“I see Parkside as a jewel that’s in need of a little bit of polishing” said Mayor Kenney. “The Parks and Rec people have done a good job maintaining but they we were in need of an infusion of outside resources. Every neighborhood in our city should have amenities like this, a place where our elderly, can come and relax and where our children can enjoy recreational activities.”

Mayor Kenney continued to elaborate on other related issues such as how funds from project rebuild will help fund Parks, libraries and recreation centers around the city. Many local residents were on hand for this event. This was a big deal in Parkside. Residents are pleased to see the improvements to the park but many are uncertain as to what it means to their futures. Updates to the park system in Parkside is wonderful but just across the street is the Parkside community. A community that has suffered through years of disinvestment. It remains to be seen how this new park will positively affect the people that live here. One resident asked me at the event “what does this mean for me, I don’t use the park and I still don’t have a laundromat around the corner.”

Joyce Smith from Viola Street Residents Association and Centennial Development Corporation had a speaking role at the ceremony and represents the community on many issues.

Joyce Smith knows the improvements are going to make the park more user friendly, but she also hopes this will lead to greater investment in the part of the community where the residents live and not lead to the removal of current residents. Longtime residents Joe Clark and Harmon Thurman also have fond memories of the Park and both are concerned about the community’s future. These longtime residents have been the stewards of this community and the park for many years. Let’s work together to bring about a bright future for Parkside.