April 29, 2015
Congratulations to People’s Emergency Center on being selected as a semi-finalist in the Housing Development Category for the NDC Academy Awards 2015. The NDC Academy Awards Semi-Finalists represent some of the most innovative and impactful developments changing the lives for residents in underserved communities across the country, NDC is honored to highlight the achievements of these organizations at the NDC Academy 2015.
Bigham Leatherberry Wise – Philadelphia, PA
Bigham Leatherberry Wise is an affordable housing development for formerly homeless women with special needs and their children as well as moderate-income households in the West Powelton neighborhood of Philadelphia. This project, a combination of new construction and renovation, has eliminated several blighted properties and created new affordable housing options in this rapidly revitalizing neighborhood. This project combines innovative design and community outreach in an effort to advance equity in a comprehensive and collaborative way. A comprehensive design review process with nearby neighbors has resulted in additional streetscape improvements, including façade improvements for existing homeowners, new planters and window boxes, and street lanterns. Green design elements such as a rain garden and Energy Star appliances have been incorporated into the project to promote energy conservation and stormwater retention.
Bigham Leatherberry Wise has transformed 4226-32 Powelton Avenue, a large vacant lot in West Philadelphia, into a 8,406 square foot, two-story building. This new construction contains two 900 sq. foot two-bedroom units and five 1,150 sq. foot three-bedroom units, for a total of 7 units. This project also includes the renovation of an adjacent 4,970 square foot three-story building at 4231 Filbert Street, which includes two 700 sq. foot two-bedroom units and two 950 sq. foot two-bedroom units, equaling a combined 11 total units.The target population for the 7 units of new construction is formerly homeless women with special needs and their children who have household incomes at 50 percent of the area median income or less. The additional 4 rehabbed units are for moderate-income households earning 80 percent of the area median income or less. This project includes a total of 27 bedrooms (six 2-bedroom units and five 3-bedroom units), serving anywhere between 27 and 54 individuals per year.
Bigham Leatherberry Wise continues PEC’s goals of alleviating poverty, eliminating blight, and helping those experiencing homelessness by providing much-needed affordable supportive housing. With 42% of Philadelphia households living on low incomes, thousands living in overcrowded conditions, and long lists for public housing assistance, the need for affordable housing in Philadelphia exceeds the supply by 60,000 units. This puts households of all kinds in the difficult situation of finding housing that is not only affordable but also appropriate for their unique needs and circumstances. For homeless families with children, which now accounts for over a quarter of the homeless population, there is an estimated gap of more than 7,000 beds in permanent supportive housing. This project helps address that need.
The need and desire for Bigham Leatherberry Wise was recently reinforced during the creation of the Make Your Mark! Lower Lancaster Revitalization Plan in 2012. This plan recommended redeveloping vacant properties on Powelton Avenue, a corridor that connects West Powelton with more affluent neighborhoods to the east, and specifically identifies this site in front of Drexel University’s Athletic Complex as a place in need of redevelopment. West Powelton has faced many challenges typical of long-term disinvestment in urban neighborhoods: low incomes and educational attainment, high poverty and unemployment rates, few homeowners, many vacant properties, and scarce goods and services. However, this neighborhood has retained extraordinary assets that make revitalization a real possibility, the beginnings of which can be seen today. Due in large part to the influence of nearby universities such as Drexel and the University of Pennsylvania, West Powelton has seen dramatic rises in housing costs in the past decade. Residents have expressed fear of gentrification, giving a new urgency to create affordable housing and to preserve the diversity of the neighborhood.