Esperanza held a groundbreaking ceremony at the former Roberto Clemente Middle School building to celebrate the many partners that came together to advance affordable housing in Hunting Park on Friday, Oct. 13.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney had nothing but the highest praise for the transformative work Esperanza is doing in Hunting Park. He congratulated Rev. Luis Cortes, Founder, President & CEO of Esperanza, for his mission and vision for the community. The Mayor gathered along with other political and community leaders from across the city, as well as Esperanza staff members and neighbors, for the celebration.
“Esperanza is changing lives, and that should be celebrated,” said Mayor Kenney. “Projects like these make our neighborhoods safer. By building stronger communities, we’re building a stronger economy.”
The ceremony celebrated the conclusion of demolition and the beginning of construction to turn the former factory and middle school into Roberto Clemente Homes, 38 units of affordable rental housing and 5,000 square feet of new commercial space. Esperanza expects to have families moved in and starting new chapters of their lives in Roberto Clemente Homes by the end of summer 2018. PZS Architects, Esperanza’s longtime partner and collaborator for nearly two decades, has designed many of the facilities on the main campus, and is also the lead architectural firm on the project.
In addition to Mayor Kenney, several local leaders gave remarks at the ceremony, including State Senator Tina Tartaglione, Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez, and State Representative Angel Cruz.
Senator Tartaglione emphasized Esperanza’s role in combatting areas of blight and decay in Hunting Park by building assets in the community, like Roberto Clemente Homes.
“I want to thank Esperanza for your vision of transforming nothing into something,” she said. “Affordable housing is what our communities need; we need homes.”
The event struck a personal chord for Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez, who spent plenty of time in the Roberto Clemente Middle School years ago as a student.
“I was in the first graduating class of Roberto Clemente,” She said. “This is a very personal project for me. We’re transforming Hunting Park one street at a time and our hope is that Roberto Clemente Homes becomes an anchor on 5th street.”
Rev. Luis Cortes hopes that Roberto Clemente Homes will be an asset that many of Esperanza’s neighbors in Hunting Park will be able to take advantage of. He noted that the looming, decrepit middle school building was known as “The Cage” for many years, and he is excited about the possibilities for change, about what the building can mean for Hunting Park going forward.
“This cage will finally become a home.”