Roundtable Series: May 2014 Shared Prosperity Roundtable Provides an Opportunity to Learn More about the West Philadelphia Promise Zone

On May 28, 2014, the Mayor’s Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity (CEO), in partnership with the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey and The Enterprise Center (TEC) convened the fifth Shared Prosperity Philadelphia Round Table, which featured a presentation on Temple Contemporary’s Funeral for a Home, and presentations highlighting the West Philadelphia Promise Zone. The Promise Zone Round Table attracted nearly 100 attendees, representing more than 90 local area organizations. The goal of the event was to provide an opportunity for area stakeholders, public and private agencies, and interested members of the public to learn more about the plans for the Promise Zone, meet representatives from some of the key partner organizations that will plan and implement Promise Zone projects, and learn about ways to get involved.

Scenes from the Promise Zone Roundtable

Scenes from the Promise Zone Roundtable, May 2014

Promise Zone Overview

The Promise Zone Round Table began with a welcome from CEO Executive Director, Eva Gladstein, who also provided an overview of the Promise Zone program guidelines and Philadelphia’s Promise Zone strategy. The Promise Zone is a new federal initiative launched in January 2014 by the White House. While the Promise Zone designation does not provide any immediate funding support, Promise Zones will receive preference in applications submitted for certain federal funding opportunities. Eva talked about the factors leading to the selection of the Philadelphia Promise Zone boundaries (which span from Girard Avenue to Sansom Street, and the Schuylkill River to 48th Street) and introduced the partnership structure for implementation activities. There are a total of six (6) Implementation Committees corresponding with the six strategy areas of the Promise Zone, with each committee co-chaired by both a public agency and private non-profit agency representative:

West Philadelphia Promise Zone Implementation Committees
  • Economic Development
  • Housing
  • Education
  • Public Safety
  • Community Engagement
  • Health & Wellness

Eva’s presentation concluded by recognizing that the success of the Promise Zone application was founded on the extensive planning work that had taken place recently in the Mantua area, including in particular (1) the We Are Mantua Transformation Plan (Mount Vernon Manor and Local Initiatives Support Corporation); (2) Make Your Mark (People’s Emergency Center); and (3) the Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Grant Proposal (Mount Vernon Manor, Drexel University, and LISC). The implementation partners will build on the goals and strategies outlined in these foundational plans, and work with area stakeholders to continue the process of identifying neighborhood needs and proposing innovative strategies throughout the entire Promise Zone.

Funeral for a Home

Patrick Grossi presents background on Funeral for a Home

Patrick Grossi on Funeral for a Home

After the overview of the Promise Zone, Eva introduced Patrick Grossi, Project Manager for Temple Contemporary’s Funeral for a Home. Funeral for a Home is a multi-event project designed to memorialize and celebrate the lives lived in 3711 Melon Street – a single, ordinary row house in Mantua slated for demolition. Patrick shared images of historical ownership records from the early 20th century, when 3711 Melon was used as rental housing for immigrant families from Ireland and Eastern Europe. The property was eventually acquired in 1946 by Leona Richardson, an African American woman who had migrated north from Louisiana. The Richardson family held ownership of the home from the 1940s until Mrs. Richardson’s son Roger’s death in 2009. Patrick’s presentation also included several recent photographs of the neighborhood, as well as moving excerpts from  audiotaped interviews with Mantua residents sharing personal memories and expressing their strong connection to the neighborhood. During the question and answer portion, Patrick invited Mantua residents who were in attendance to respond to questions from the audience about their hopes for the community, especially in light of the Promise Zone designation. Patrick ended the presentation by inviting everyone to attend the “home going celebration” for 3711 Melon, which was scheduled for Saturday, May 31st at 11:00 am. Additional information about Funeral for a Home and photos of the funeral can be found at Temple Contemporary’s website (http://funeralforahome.org/).

Round Table Discussions

In the second half of the Promise Zone Round Table, attendees were given the opportunity to hear a brief presentation highlighting each of the six Promise Zone implementation strategy areas. A representative from one of the implementation committee co-chairs was seated at each of the individual round tables, which gave the audience an opportunity to select the presentation and discussion corresponding with their area of interest. Facilitators from CEO and the United Way asked the attendees to review the goals and activities included in the Promise Zone plan, and to provide feedback on their agency’s role in carrying out activities (if applicable) or suggestions on innovative activities that should be added to the list. At the conclusion of the discussion, attendees were given an opportunity to move to a second table to hear another presentation in the same discussion format. The Round Table discussions generated a number of spirited conversations about the Promise Zone strategy and new opportunities for partnerships. A summary of the comments shared and key points raised at the individual roundtables can be found at the following link.

If you have specific questions or would like more information about the Promise Zone, you can send an email to promise.zone@phila.gov. Also, visit the Shared Prosperity Philadelphia website for a link to the new West Philadelphia Promise Zone website, which should be posted in the fall of 2014.