PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Low-income Philadelphians will soon be better connected to nonprofit legal resources. Construction will begin this fall on what’s being called the Equal Justice Center that will house more than a dozen civil legal aid groups under one group.
Right now, it’s the home to about 200 parked cars, but in just a few years an often overlooked lot near 8th and Race Streets in Philadelphia will be transformed.
“We’re going to build a nine-story nonprofit center,” Philadelphia Bar Foundation executive director Jessica Hilburn-Holmes said. “We have some of the largest legal aid.”
The Equal Justice Center is a $65 million project that will house most of the city’s free legal services.
Currently, the agencies are scattered throughout Philadelphia.
According to Hilburn-Holmes, Philly has some of the largest legal aid provides, including Community Legal Services, Philadelphia Legal Assistance and Legal Law Center. She said the Equal Justice Center would be “the first of its kind in the country.”
The Philadelphia Bar Association is spearheading the project and Hilburn-Holmes hopes the legal center can be a one-stop shop for anyone who may not have the means or the time to navigate the legal system.
“In its current iteration, we’ve been working very steadily for the past seven years,” Hilburn-Holmes said. “What this is about is bringing better access to justice for most Philadelphians. If you do have kind of a one-stop shop, a singular place you can go to. I’d imagine that would be helpful.”
Philadelphians say they’re looking forward to the doors opening since it could save precious time and money.
“Because it will be consolidated in one building,” one Philadelphian said, “I think it’s a great idea.”
The plan is to have the center up and running by January 2022.
“Philadelphia is where the whole experiment with democracy and justice really started,” Hilburn-Holmes said. “We own this. We should bring it to fruition and I’m very excited to be a part of it.”
The $65 million is coming from a combination of bonds, state grants and private donations.
Hilburn-Holmes says groundbreaking is set for September.