The Lead

Philly’s Africatown project to get $9M in state aid

By: - November 29, 2022 11:39 am
Africatown Groundbreaking

Groundbreaking for Philadelphia’a Africatown project(Photo via The Philadelphia Tribune.).

By Alec Larson

PHILADELPHIA —  A community development project in Southwest Philadelphia named Africatown recently celebrated two major milestones: an official groundbreaking and the announcement of millions in additional state funding.

At the groundbreaking event, state Rep. Jordan Harris and state Sen. Anthony Williams, both Philadelphia Democrats, announced that the African Culture Alliance of North America (ACANA), the organization leading the project, will receive a Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) grant of $9 million to aid the group in making Africatown a reality.

“This is an important project. As the city of Philadelphia continues to develop, it’s important that this community develops. For far too long, southwest Philadelphia has been left out of a lot of the positive development that has happened in the city of Philadelphia. In addition to that, you can go all around the country and you’ll see all of the different dynamics represented with regards to ethnicity. Philadelphia has a huge African population and it is time that the city recognizes that population,” Harris, the number two Democrat in the state House, said.

RACP funding comes from the Pennsylvania Office of the Budget and is reserved for projects that have “a cultural, civic, historical, regional or multi-jurisdictional impact and generate substantial increases in employment, tax revenues or other measures of economic activity,” according to a statement from the office.

The RACP funds were the result of a group effort by local elected officials that included Harris and Williams, as well as state Rep. Joanna McClinton, state Sens. Sharif Street and Vincent Hughes, who also represent the city in Harrisburg .

According to ACANA, the Africatown concept has been “designed to become an economic development initiative to create jobs, for our youth, in Southwest Philadelphia, increase business ownership among the residents of the community and eliminate poverty in one of the most economically depressed communities in Philadelphia.”

The project is currently set to take over more than 80 percent of a city block in Southwest Philadelphia and will offer commercial space and residential housing to the local community. ACANA has designs on building a multimillion-dollar headquarters that will include a community center and health office, and the group is also nearing the purchase of an area grocery store that will become a part of the project.

According to reports, the Africatown project is expected to go from around South 47th Street and Baltimore Avenue to South 74th Street and Lindbergh Boulevard, and include the Woodland Avenue business corridor.

Ultimately, the organization said it hopes that Africatown can “become a ‘Tourist Destination Point’ for the global African diaspora and other interested persons” in a neighborhood that has historically been home to a major African and Caribbean immigrant communities.

Harris said he believes that this project is “extremely important” when you look at the diversity represented in Southwest Philadelphia and sees the project as necessary in order to increase business, a larger sense of community and to provide an array of services in the area.

“I thought it was extremely important understanding the diversity that we have in this part of the city of Philadelphia. We need this … All of this is going to be transformational. It is going to transform not just this part of the city, but it is going to be something that folks come from all over the city and quite honestly, around the world to come and see Philadelphia. That’s why it’s important that we do this.”

For his part, Williams said that being able to see the Africatown project cross the starting line was a great moment and added that there are a variety of ways that this concept will be beneficial for the Southwest Philadelphia community.

“An area that’s sometimes overlooked is now having development occurring, a population of Africans and African Americans will now have a place where we can get to know each other’s history and economically, obviously (it will) help the community to not only balance itself, but to grow, not from gentrification, but actually for folks who live here. So on several different levels it’s a great moment,” he said.

At the end of the day, Williams said that he has extremely high hopes for the sense of community that a project such as this can instill in its surrounding neighborhoods.

“(My hope is) that all of us, who for generations have hoped that we can understand where we come from, (can) know about our brothers and sisters rather than feel the tension and frustration that leads to violence. (I hope) that we can see some level of connectivity that will lead to a much more peaceful existence in our community.”

Alec Larson is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared

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