Esperanza Begins Work on Roberto Clemente Homes
This article is indebted to Hidden City Philadelphia for its account of the history of the Roberto Clemente building.
In September 2016, Esperanza took a monumental step forward in the revitalization of Hunting Park and its 5th Street Commercial Corridor, as it began work on the rehabilitation of the derelict former Roberto Clemente school building at 5th and Luzerne. The development is the result of years of planning and tireless advocacy to assemble the necessary funding for the complicated project. When construction is complete, the repurposed building will include 38 units of affordable rental housing for families as well as 5,000 sq. ft. of new commercial space.
The massive Roberto Clemente building at 3921-61 N. 5th Street was designed by architect Frederick Muhlenberg and constructed in 1924 as the Apex Hosiery Factory, one of the larger factories in what was then Hunting Park’s bustling industrial district. The factory was famous in the 20th century not just for its stockings, but also for being the epicenter of a large conflict over textile worker unionization that went all the way to the US Supreme Court. The factory eventually closed in 1954, and the School District of Philadelphia purchased it in 1967 to convert it into the Pennsylvania Advancement Middle School, which was renamed for Puerto Rican baseball legend Roberto Clemente in 1984. Following the opening of the new Roberto Clemente Middle School on Erie Avenue in 1994, the building was converted into the Greater Philadelphia Book Bank. This closed in 2007, and the vacant structure quickly fell prey to deterioration, vandals, squatters, and scrap metal hunters. The blighted conditions exerted a negative effect on nearby blocks, as the presence of criminal activity, falling debris, and fears of environmental contamination left residents calling for the School District to fix up or demolish the building.
In 2012, Esperanza identified the property in its Hunting Park Neighborhood Strategic Plan 2022 as a priority site for redevelopment and soon began planning for its reuse. After securing an option to purchase the site, Esperanza twice sought out funding from the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency’s Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program. The successful second attempt enabled Esperanza to attract over $11 million of private capital from PNC Bank towards the $17 million total project cost. Additional funding came from the Federal Home Loan Banks of New York and Pittsburgh, the City of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Housing Authority, and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation. The support of both local and state elected officials was critical in gathering the complicated array of funding sources that were necessary to get the project off the ground.
In September 2016, Esperanza finally acquired ownership of the property, immediately initiating environmental remediation and interior demolition. This work safely removed asbestos and other contamination from the property so that it would be safe for residential occupancy. Next, a partial demolition will reduce the looming 7-story building to a 3-story structure more in scale with the surrounding neighborhood, while creating space for a new parking lot and children’s play area to meet resident needs. A formal groundbreaking event will mark the start of interior renovations and site work in spring 2017, and the renovated building is expected to be ready for occupancy in 2018.
Thanks to the work of Esperanza, the support of state and local government, and the contributions of a variety of funding partners, Hunting Park’s highest-profile blighted property is finally benefitting from a transformative investment that will improve the surrounding neighborhood for years to come.
Hunting Park Community Comes Together to Oppose Junkyard Expansion
Unified opposition by Hunting Park residents, adjacent property-owners, local institutions, and the City of Philadelphia may finally spell the end for a neighborhood junkyard.
This October, a diverse group of Hunting Park residents and institutions successfully joined forces to oppose the operation of the Clearfield Recycling salvage yard located at 532 W. Annsbury Street, concluding the latest chapter in an ongoing battle to address the operation’s impact on the community. According to the website www.ScrapTheYard.com created by local residents, the operation, which succeeded Poor Boys Used Auto Parts on the same property, “is unsightly, chronically in violation of safety codes, and is $130,076.32 tax delinquent.” The website presents an extensive list of problems surrounding the salvage yard, citing public records which document the property’s six-figure tax delinquency and staggering collection of over 100 code violations to back up its contentions.
The current zoning case began after Clearfield Recycling was cited by the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections on November 6, 2013 for operating without the required Use Registration Permit. The business applied for the permit, seeking a special exception to permit the operation of its junk and salvage yards, the sale of used auto parts, and the presence of the business’ accessory office trailer, but the nature of the proposed land use required automatic review by the City’s Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA). The Hunting Park Neighborhood Advisory Council (NAC) hosted the required community meeting at Esperanza on April 9, 2015, and dozens of residents and institutional representatives attended to air their concerns about the proposal, unanimously voting to oppose the special exception. At the case’s original hearing before the ZBA on May 20, 2015, Esperanza and Christian Legal Clinics of Philadelphia (CLCP) provided legal representation for the community, and a horde of stakeholders delivered testimony in opposition to the junkyard. The ZBA unanimously voted to deny the special exception, but Clearfield’s attorney appealed the decision to the City’s Court of Common Pleas.
On February 10, 2016, the Court remanded the case to the ZBA, requesting that it consider specific aspects of the case and issue a new verdict. District Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez intervened to request that Clearfield meet with the community to address its concerns, but the business failed to send a representative to an October 10, 2016 meeting organized at Esperanza for that purpose. On October 12, 2016, the ZBA heard the case for second time, and the junkyard faced equally passionate opposition from community stakeholders, Esperanza, and CLCP. After reconsidering the case in detail, the ZBA once again issued a unanimous decision to deny the special exception, eliciting a jubilant response from the residents at the hearing. In late October, Clearfield’s attorney filed paperwork to appeal the ZBA ruling to the Court of Common Pleas for a second time, so it is likely that the legal battle over the zoning case will drag on through 2017. Even so, the Hunting Park community shows no signs of backing down, with Esperanza, CLCP, and local residents committed to keeping up the fight as long as necessary.
While the zoning case is underway, the owners of 532 W. Annsbury Street are struggling to appeal a separate case in private litigation, in which the Court of Common Pleas found that they do not hold legal title to the property. If this verdict is upheld on appeal, the junkyard may be forced to vacate the property altogether, opening a path for a larger community conversation regarding the long-term best use of the land. In the Hunting Park Neighborhood Strategic Plan 2022, which was accepted by the Philadelphia City Planning Commission in October 2012, the land is shown as a community green space, although its ultimate fate would have to be determined in consultation with ownership interests, and in consideration of financial and environmental limitations. In the short term, Councilwoman Quiñones-Sánchez has agreed to work with the City Solicitor’s office to pursue the enforcement of an existing court order which requires the property owners to remove the piles of unprocessed auto parts and junk vehicles from the land.
Whatever the eventual outcome of the case, the events of the past two years have been a powerful testament to the collective impact of a diverse coalition of resident and institutional actors coming together to fight for the well-being of their community.
Beautifying Hunting Park and Feltonville One Block at a Time
As part of the Hunting Park 2022 Strategic Plan, Esperanza awards grants of up to $1,000 to blocks within the plan boundaries for neighbors to complete beautification projects. This program started in 2012 and became an instant success. Have you noticed the beautiful planters as you walk down many of the local streets, or beautiful benches and painted curbs? These are all part of this grant that seeks to help local neighbors with the revitalization of their community. In the past four rounds, Esperanza has awarded over $80,000 to area blocks, consisting of 125 grants to 89 unique blocks, impacting over 10,000 people in the neighborhood. In 2016 alone, Esperanza awarded grants to 43 blocks, 7 of which are located on the Wyoming Avenue commercial corridor. These projects, although simple, have had a positive impact in these blocks, from enhancing the residents’ pride and spirit, to creating cleaner, safer and more beautiful community spaces. These grants are possible thanks to the sustained support of the Wells Fargo Regional Foundation, with supplemental funding provided by the City of Philadelphia and Cancer Treatment Centers of America.
The 2017 grant cycle opened in January 2017, and applications are being accepted through March 6, 2017. If you live within the plan area (see map) or on Wyoming Avenue (Boulevard to Castor Ave.) and would like for your block to participate, contact Gabriella Paéz at 215-324-0746 x176 or at GPaez@esperanza.us.
New Community Resources at www.MyHuntingPark.com
Esperanza is excited to announce a new Community section on its MyHuntingPark.com website! This section was designed to inform our neighbors about available local resources while keeping everyone updated about what’s happening. Pages under this section include a neighborhood organization guide, an education page with information about local initiatives, and a community revitalization page with information about the Hunting Park Plan, the beautification grant, Town Watch for neighborhood safety and outstanding members’ highlights. In this page, we will also keep our neighbors updated about opportunities and upcoming events. Make sure to check it out!
5th St. & Hunting Park Commercial Corridor News
Pharmacy of America Opens New Headquarters at 5th & Wyoming
One of the biggest success stories on Hunting Park’s 5th Street Business Corridor in 2016 was the opening of Pharmacy of America’s corporate headquarters and newest retail location in the former Wells Fargo bank branch at 5th & Wyoming. It was the seventh local store opened by the chain, which boasts of being the “fastest growing independent pharmacy in Philadelphia.” Founder and CEO Sabri Ibrahim is a Feltonville native who established the business in 2009 in order to offer customers “a unique blend of old fashioned values and modern day care.” The departure of Wells Fargo from the historic Wyoming Trust Company building at 4654 N. 5th Street offered Ibrahim a unique opportunity to bring his successful business back to the neighborhood he grew up in while securing an impressive site for the company’s headquarters. A thoughtful renovation of the building’s interior provided a large retail pharmacy space for customers, an unobtrusive corporate office space, and maintained unique historic touches such as the old bank vault.
Pharmacy of America has seven locations, all open seven days a week. They offer free delivery and pick-up and accept all insurances. Be sure to visit Pharmacy of America to meet Sabri, his business partner Bodur, and his friendly staff.
Latin Fashion Completes Transformative Renovation Project
Patricia Arcila knows what a difference a new look can make. The successful Colombian-born businesswoman is founder and owner of Latin Fashion Import Export, a retailer of women’s fashion and intimate apparel based in Hunting Park. Thanks to the support of Esperanza and the City of Philadelphia’s Commerce Department, the company’s retail store at 4648-52 N. 5th Street recently completed a transformative exterior renovation project that will ensure its growth for years to come.
The realization of these façade improvements is the latest chapter in the success story of a small business that Arcila has built over the course of 15 years of hard work. After immigrating to the United States, she started out selling clothes door-to-door in 2002 before establishing a brick-and-mortar location at a single storefront in Feltonville in 2005. In 2010 she purchased her current location, a 5,000 sq. ft. triple-storefront on Hunting Park’s 5th Street Commercial Corridor. The business now includes traditional retail as well as a thriving wholesale component.
Upon purchasing her building, Mrs. Arcila immediately invested in a handsome renovation of the primary sales area. With hardwood floors, exposed brick walls, and Latin American accents, the store’s distinctive interior was welcoming to customers. Even so, the building’s worn exterior failed to do it justice, with cracked windows, corroded metal bays, and a makeshift banner sign. So, Patricia began working with Esperanza’s Commercial Corridor Program to secure the funds she needed to achieve her dream of fully renovating the storefront. First, she participated in the Community Design Collaborative’s rStore design process in order to consider options for renovating her building façade, and then worked with Esperanza’s Corridor Manager to apply to the City’s Storefront Improvement Program (SIP) and Esperanza’s Small Business Façade Improvement Supplemental Grant. All told, she was able to secure $14,950 in grant funds to defray the cost of the renovations. Thanks to these programs, Latin Fashion now boasts a beautiful new look that attracts customers and complements the growing Latin corridor aesthetic along 5th Street.
New Business Directory Released for Winter 2016-17
Esperanza is excited to announce the release of the latest edition of its annual business directory for 5th Street and Hunting Park Avenue, which hit the streets in December 2016. The directory is available for pick up at Esperanza, Tierra Colombiana, and multiple other local businesses. An online directory can also be viewed by visiting www.MyHuntingPark.com and clicking on Business Directory. Don’t forget to check out the new edition and explore the more than 100 small businesses that serve our community!
Feltonville & Wyoming Avenue News
Esperanza has provided community and economic development services along Wyoming Avenue in Feltonville since 2013 through the generous financial support of Cancer Treatment Centers of America, the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, and the partnership of the City of Philadelphia.
New Funding for Feltonville War Memorial Triangle Improvements
In May 2015, Esperanza Housing and Economic Development (EHED) secured a highly-competitive Placemaker Grant from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) to revitalize the Feltonville War Memorial triangle at Rising Sun and Wyoming Avenues. Following a year of public meetings and stakeholder outreach, a final design was released in spring 2016, and PHS is now collaborating with city agencies on engineering, permits, and construction documents. In October 2016, PHS successfully secured $60,000 in new implementation funding from the PA Department of Community and Economic Development’s (PA DCED) Greenways Trails and Recreation program to support Phase I of the improvements. This grant is in addition to $28,500 provided by PHS, $25,000 provided by Councilwoman Quiñones-Sánchez, and $30,000 provided by Esperanza through Cancer Treatment Centers of America, bringing the total funds available for Phase I construction to $143,500. Phase I construction is scheduled to break ground by mid-summer 2017. The Philadelphia Water Department has also agreed to fund Phase II of the improvements, for which design is already underway. Upon completion of all phases, EHED’s Placemaker Grant is expected to have leveraged well over $250,000 in additional funding for this transformative project.
Wyoming Avenue Streetscape Master Plan Update
Following an in-depth professional design assessment and the input of dozens of community stakeholders, Feltonville is close to having its first-ever streetscape master plan for the Wyoming Avenue Commercial Corridor. In December 2015, EHED hired the consultant TEND Landscape Architects to produce a Streetscape Plan for the 2-mile section of Wyoming Avenue between the Roosevelt Boulevard and Castor Avenue, following a similar process carried on 5th Street in 2012-2013. Preliminary design work and community engagement kicked off in January 2016, and included two coordinating meetings with city agencies, one meeting with Councilwoman Quiñones-Sánchez, one meeting with institutional stakeholders, 2 open public engagement events at the Wyoming Branch of the Free Library, and distribution of public comment surveys. The final draft of the plan is nearing completion, and will be released in February 2018. Esperanza wishes to thank Santander Bank and the PA Department of Community and Economic Development (PA-DCED) for providing the funding for preparing this plan.
Music, Pumpkins, Fun!
Esperanza, in partnership with the Wyoming Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia, hosted the Wyoming Fall Festival this past October 5th. Pumpkin painting, upbeat music, yummy Colombian pastries from Delicias Criollas and face painting were just some of the things our neighbors were able to enjoy! This event was brought to the public to celebrate the autumn weather while displaying some exciting plans Esperanza has been working on to bring improvements to the Avenue. TEND Landscape Architects, whom Esperanza hired to create a Wyoming Avenue Streetscape Plan, was present at the event with posters and pictures of what the Avenue could look like based on feedback from area residents and stakeholders. At the event, attendees were also able to learn more about the Library and its services, and gather other useful information brought by a number of partners such as Casa del Carmen and the Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership.
Wyoming Avenue Commercial Corridor News
Esperanza Housing and Economic Development’s (EHED) Commercial Corridor Program serves the Wyoming Avenue Commercial Corridor between Castor Avenue and the Roosevelt Boulevard.
EHED is sad to report the departure of Tempest Carter from its staff and thanks her for her service as Wyoming Avenue Commercial Corridor Manager from 2014 through 2016. We also wish to thank Esperanza College student Simeris Mercado for serving in this capacity on a short-term basis during the winter months. The search for a permanent replacement is underway, and anyone who is interested in applying for the position should send their credentials and cover letter to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks to the assistance of former Wyoming Avenue Commercial Corridor Manager Tempest Carter, Chany Sot, owner of Angela’s Boutique at 454 E. Wyoming Avenue, was successful in securing a $10,000 Business Stabilization Grant from The Merchants Fund (TMF). Ms. Sot is believed to be the first Feltonville business owner who has received a grant from TMF, and she is using the funds to support the transformation of her one-time dry cleaning business into a custom clothing shop. Angela’s Boutique has previously made use of other funding sources, such as the City’s Storefront Improvement Program and Kiva’s Interest-free Loan, to bring about comprehensive interior and exterior improvements to the shop.
During its 2016 NeighborCare Team grant-making cycle, Esperanza supported a record number of projects along Wyoming Avenue in Feltonville. While NeighborCare grants had been awarded to blocks of Wyoming Avenue to the west of Front Street in previous years, this was the first year that grant awards were made on the avenue east of Front Street. This expansion was possible thanks to funding from Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA).
Esperanza Campus Construction Update
If you’ve recently visited Esperanza’s headquarters at 5th and Bristol Streets in Hunting Park, you’ve probably noticed that our property has been under renovations. Esperanza’s campus expansion project is modernizing the organization’s buildings and creating new facilities to serve the Hunting Park community. First, Esperanza demolished the vacant Wheeling Corrugating Company factory at 3th and Bristol Streets, which had long been a blighting influence on adjacent blocks. Following the creation of a state-of-the-art stormwater management system, Esperanza created a new landscaped parking lot on this space in order to serve its employees, students, and visitors, thereby reducing the demand for nearby street parking which neighbors rely on. Meanwhile, unused space in the first and second floors of Esperanza’s main building was converted into the Esperanza Academy Charter Middle School, which provides high-quality instruction for over 600 students. The building was further expanded to create a top-quality gymnasium for middle school and high school students, and Esperanza’s Artistas y Músicos Latino Americanos (AMLA) music school gained professional practice rooms, a full recording studio, and modern sound editing labs. Other facilities expansions are still under construction, and are planned for completion in the coming years. These include the Esperanza Performing Arts Media Technology Center, an art gallery, a chapel, the Esperanza Conference Center, and a new Esperanza College Library. Esperanza also plans on installing new fencing and landscaping improvements which will further beautify the adjacent streets. Upon completion of the project, Esperanza will have invested over $20 million in the development of its campus since acquiring the land in the 1990s. We believe that in the years to come, the site will complement ongoing efforts to revitalize Hunting Park and its 5th Street Corridor by drawing residents from across the city to experience our thriving Latino cultural destination!
Get to Know Esperanza: Housing Counseling
Esperanza’s Housing Counseling Department is here to help and educate the community in the homeownership process. Our counseling staff have been trained and certified as intermediaries by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). We provide free housing counseling services in the areas of Pre-Purchase, Foreclosure, Rental and Post-Purchase and Shelters. Appointments can be made for group workshops and one-on-one consultations. To make an appointment, call 215-324-0746.
Rain Barrel Workshop
Are you a Philadelphia resident interested in getting a FREE rain barrel installed in your home? Attend a Rain Barrel Workshop at Esperanza on Wednesday, February 22nd from 5:30-6:30 pm. Sign up here and select Nueva Esperanza, Inc as the site: http://www.phillywatersheds.org/whats_in_it_for_you/residents/raincheck/signup
Philadelphia 2035 North District Plan Public Meeting #1
The Philadelphia City Planning Commission needs your help to shape future development and public investment in Hunting Park! The North District Plan is one of 18 District Plans that will guide Philadelphia’s physical development. The plan will make recommendations for zoning changes, city-owned land and facilities, and public investments in the North District. Come to the Lenfest Center at 3890 N. 10th Street on Thursday, February 23, 2017 from 6:30-8:00pm to participate in person, or visit http://bit.ly/sharenorth to share your ideas through an online survey.
HAVE FUN ~ EXPLORE ~ CREATE
Join us on the 25th of February from 10 AM to 2 PM to explore the wonders of engineering while working on hands-on activities at Esperanza College. Enjoy a morning of fun learning with the whole family! This event is free and open to all. Free snacks provided.
Spring Family Fun Night
Come out to Esperanza’s quarterly Family Fun Night with your family and friends to enjoy free food, raffles and games as well as valuable information for neighbors. Join us from 5:00-7:00pm at Esperanza on Friday, March 17, 2017.
Town Watch Block Safety Training
Do you and your neighbors want to do more to deter crime in Hunting Park? Those who attend this training become part of the Esperanza Eyes and Ears Town Watch group and get access to a number of resources to make their blocks safer. Join us at 5:30pm on March 22, 2017 at Esperanza.
Bringing the Stars to Hunting Park!
On October 7th, Esperanza hosted a Star Party at its parking lot. At this event, attendees were able to observe the Moon, Mars and Saturn both through professional telescopes and through smaller Galileoscopes that were placed in the area for attendees to explore on their own. Attendees were also able to learn about constellations and Moon phases thanks to activities hosted by Esperanza College and Community Science and Technology Education (CSTEP). This event is part of City Skies, which is a program managed by The Franklin Institute and funded by NASA that seeks to point out that the night sky is available to everyone, everywhere, without the use of special equipment. This program seeks to specially engage City residents who do not often look up to see the beauty of the stars and planets and who often struggle to identify objects due to light pollution. The Star Parties have become a favorite in the neighborhood and are usually well attended. This last event attracted over 500 residents who together enjoyed the wonders of the sky while enjoying some free snacks. The next Star Party will take place on Friday, April 28, 2017 from 7:30 to 10:30pm at Esperanza’s parking lot as part of the Philadelphia Science Festival.
EHED Receives Wells Fargo Community Connections Grant
On Monday, October 17, Esperanza’s Executive Director of Housing and Economic Development, Philip Dawson, accepted a check for $1,000 on behalf of Esperanza as a Wells Fargo Community Connections Grant. Wells Fargo’s Community Connections Giving Program is an annual program where each of its retail banking stores explores the needs of their local communities and selects a nonprofit organization or school to receive a $1,000 grant. This year, Wells Fargo will award more than $300,000 in grants to nonprofit organizations and schools throughout Pennsylvania and Delaware.The grants are part of the company’s broader support of its communities. In 2015, Wells Fargo and its team members invested more than $11 million in nonprofit organizations and schools and team members volunteered more than 36,000 hours across Pennsylvania.
“At Wells Fargo, we know that small acts can yield huge results and we are committed to supporting programs and organizations that we believe are important to the future of our communities’ vitality and success,” said Eblin Colombo, Store Manager for the Juniata Store of Wells Fargo Bank at 1246 E. Hunting Park Avenue. “So we are proud to support Esperanza with this grant.”
At Esperanza, we understand the importance of partnering with our corporate sponsors and local businesses in order to make a difference in Hunting Park. It is an honor to be able to work with Wells Fargo in making our community a better place, and we thank them for their continued support of Esperanza’s mission to strengthen Hispanic communities.
Esperanza Housing and Economic Development relies on the generosity of its individual, corporate, and foundation supporters to make its work possible, and 84 cents of every dollar donated goes directly to programs. If you would like to make a contribution to our work, please visit www.esperanza.us/donate or call 215-324-0746 to inquire about making a gift. Esperanza is a nonprofit, tax-exempt charitable organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Donations are tax-deductible as allowed by law.
Esperanza Housing and Economic Development
4261 N. 5th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19140