By Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The Nicetown CDC, Universal Companies and Community Builders celebrated the ribbon cutting of a new 50 unit affordable housing development, with commercial space near Wayne Junction in Nicetown yesterday.
Dilapidated buildings, vacant homes and blight in the 4000 Block of Germantown Avenue have been ripped out and replaced by newly paved streets, brick town home rentals and bright commercial space.
“We had over 800 applications for 50 units within a two month span,” says Zakariyya Abdur-Rahman, president of the Nicetown CDC. He says the $19 million Nicetown Court II development is the result of federal stimulus funds, tax credits and private investment. He says the Nicetown area was a 50-year drought when it comes to new housing. But bit, by bit money began to roll in, with the largest investment completed two years ago with the nearby Nicetown Court I, a 37-unit affordable housing apartment complex.
“Together the two, within a three-year period, make 90 units,” says Abdur-Rahman, “it’s really phenomenal.”
Rahim Islam, CEO of Universal Companies, says it took years of effort, community building and partnerships to get the money to build the two-story rentals, which he helps will spur more investment.
“It was dilapidated buildings, boarded up buildings all along Germantown Avenue. Now this looks like a new town,” he says, “it gives us more energy to just keep moving.”
“It’s a two-bedroom, bi-level, there’s a bedroom upstairs,” says Jacqueline Jackson, who showed a crowd of supporters around her new home.
“It’s amazing…it really came a long way,” she said, smiling.
“Our biggest sellers…fish hoagies, fish steaks, fish fried rice,” says Sharon Muhammad, who owns Sister Muhammad’s Kitchen, which is leasing space in the new development. Muhammad says the space means a bigger restaurant, with a sit-down area for customers.
“It’s just a huge blessing that I never in my life could have imagined,” she says.
Other efforts in the works in Nicetown, a $35 million investment by SEPTA into Wayne Junction and a new skate park near Roosevelt Boulevard.