Mayor Michael A. Nutter and Julián Castro, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, toured Philadelphia’s Promise Zone in the Mantua section of West Philadelphia. The tour highlighted redevelopment already underway in Mantua and featured three stops: the Mount Vernon Manor Apartments, the People’s Emergency Center, and the Montgomery Early Learning Center Families First location.
“Promise Zones are communities with deep-seated challenges. Mantua faces persistent, high poverty – nearly double the poverty rate of the entire city – low educational attainment, high crime, low rates of employment and high rates of long-term housing vacancy,” said Mayor Nutter. “But, Mantua also has strong neighborhood assets, like transit, new developments, both housing and commercial, a strong anchor in Drexel University, high-quality early learning opportunities, access to skills development and employment opportunities, and more, supporting its transformation. The Promise Zone designation will help Mantua leverage those assets and the involvement of community members and partners to create lasting change. I want to thank Secretary Castro for coming to see first-hand that this transformation is already underway.”
In January, the City of Philadelphia was one of three cities and a total of five areas selected for a Promise Zone designation, a federal initiative to accelerate revitalization efforts in targeted areas. The Promise Zone initiative is led by the White House with support from federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Justice.
During the Montgomery Early Learning Center tour stop, Mayor Nutter and Secretary Castro were joined by John Fry, President, Drexel University, and Laura Sparks, Executive Director, William Penn Foundation, to highlight a new collaborative initiative between Drexel University and the William Penn Foundation to increase the number of high-quality early learning opportunities in West Philadelphia.
“The Obama Administration’s Promise Zone initiative helps spur public and private investments to strengthen communities and expand opportunity for all. A child’s zip code should not determine his or her destiny, odds of attending a good school, or lifetime economic opportunities,” said Secretary Castro. “This collaboration between the William Penn Foundation and Drexel University can serve as a model for other communities that are looking for innovative ways to rebuild neighborhoods and prepare the next generation for college and career.”
Mayor Nutter added, “I believe that education is the key to future success, and early learning opportunities are the best way to ensure young Philadelphians have the basic educational and social skills they need to achieve that success. The partnership between Drexel University and William Penn will create high-quality learning experiences for children and build a strong foundation for the resurgence of Mantua.”
About Mount Vernon Manor
Mount Vernon Manor is a 125-unit low-income apartment complex, which was originally built in the late 1970s with the assistance of federal subsidies. By the 2000s, the complex was severely distressed. The Mount Vernon Manor Board applied for and obtained a HUD Choice Planning Grant in 2011. As a result, 75 units have been renovated and there are plans to renovate the remaining 50 units in 2015.
About the People’s Emergency Center
The People’s Emergency Center (PEC), another tour stop, serves homeless families and forms partnerships for strengthening neighborhoods. Since 1972, PEC’s activities have evolved from supportive service housing and facilities to encompass a wide range of real estate, economic development, and quality of life programs that benefit community members and attract new residents. PEC has secured more than $60 million in public and private investments to transform 140 blighted Mantua properties into 218 units of affordable housing for formerly homeless and low-income families.
About Montgomery Early Learning Center Families First
Montgomery Early Learning Center (MELC) Families First is a high-quality facility that has earned four out of four stars by Keystone Early Childhood performance standards. The center is characterized by quality and longevity of teachers and high parental involvement. The programs the center offers are developmentally appropriate and prepare children for success in school.