By Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A new, 8,500 square foot community life center opened today in North Philadelphia, thanks to an $11-million investment in affordable housing.
Originally built in the 1960s, Beckett Gardens, a developement at 16th and Master Streets, has for years offered low-income housing in North Philadelphia. But three years ago, the nonprofit Union Housing Development Corporation took over the aging 132-unit complex to make some changes.
“The complex was in really bad shape. We had arrearages of over a million dollars,” says Jeffrey Smith, who works with UHDC.
The group leveraged more than $11 million in private and public funding (none from the city, Smith points out) to rehab the property, then pumped in another $1.6 million to build the Beckett Community Life Center.
“It will mean opportunities, it will mean job training — we have tutoring by students from Temple and Drexel University. We have a state-of-the-art kitchen that we spent more than $200,000 on,” Smith (fourth from right in photo below) says.
Philadelphia City Council president Darrell Clarke says this marks the end of hard times due to lack of investment for North Philadelphia.
“To see those people who have toughed it out and stayed in these communities now reap the benefit of hanging in there and seeing new development is wonderful,” he said today.
Clarke (fourth from left in photo) says residents can expect more investment in affordable housing in North Philadelphia.