By KYW Newsradio community affairs reporter Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. (CBS) — The Beech Companies are changing the game in North Central Philadelphia, one block at a time.

The group includes a nonprofit, a bank, a real estate company, and a media organization.  Together they are working to revitalize the Cecil B. Moore community that runs from Susquehanna Avenue to Girard Avenue, and from Broad Street to Ridge Avenue.

“In 1990, it was the highest in crime and poverty,” says Kenneth Scott, president of the Beech Companies, “so an effort was made to help rebuild it.”

Scott’s tenure with Beech began in 1995, as a volunteer.  He’s served as president for the past decade.  He says the Beech vision is to bring businesses and residents back the area of Philadelphia once devastated by the Columbia Avenue riots.

“We had about a 70-percent vacancy in homes,” Scott recalls of that era.  “The area was so bad a serial killer took up residence.”

But over the past 25 years, Beech has invested a billion dollars in the area, for projects that include more than 1,000 units of affordable housing, community revitalization, low-interest loans, and grants to nonprofits that serve the area.

“Beech has supplied about five million dollars in grant funding to other organizations,” says Scott, who notes they’ve built a new library, and helped improve walkability and safety.

In addition, Scott produces documentaries, sits on boards, and hold the line with Temple University to make sure the improving Cecil B. Moore community is focused on the long-term residents.

“North Central Philadelphia is becoming a great place to live,” says Scott.  “I think we’ve made great strides. I think we’ve met our vision.”

The Beech Companies will celebrate their 25th anniversary this year.  For more on their yearlong celebration, go to www.beechinterplex.com.
Hear the extended interview with  Kenneth Scott in this CBS Philly podcast (runs 18:58)…

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