Rendering of Eastern Tower. (Studio Agoos Lovera)
Over four years ago, Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation set out on an ambitious mission for a grassroots neighborhood nonprofit: Raise $53 million for the construction of Eastern Tower, a 20-story community center set to begin construction in early 2016.
“If you look through the neighborhoods of Philadelphia and you look at a map, you’ll see red dots that represent Philadelphia’s recreation centers throughout the city,” said PCDC executive director John Chin. “Most neighborhoods have two recreation centers, but Chinatown never has had one.”
Chin said that regardless of the reasons for that — lack of advocacy, lack of voting power — PCDC decided to act. So, they set out fundraising in early 2011 to build a community center that would sustain itself by filling voids in the community such as housing, office space and retail.
Needless to say, $53 million is a ton of dough for the construction of community center. To alleviate some of the financial burden that has been holding back construction, Chin said the nonprofit has been dependent on public funding to carry some of the construction cost.
To date, PCDC has raised $7.9 million in government and foundation funding, including:
- $3.7M from a state Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant
- $105,415 from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
- $700,000 from the City of Philadelphia
- $3.4M in foundation grants
Fifteen local foundations have pitched in to that $3.4 million, including the William Penn Foundation, Philadelphia Foundation, Samuel S. Fels Foundation and most recently, a $200,000 grant from the Connelly Foundation — the latter already supporting Holy Redeemer Catholic school across the street from the Eastern Tower site.
“Talking with [Connelly], they really understood the importance of their investment in our project because it will contribute to the betterment of the entire neighborhood including the catholic school across the street,” Chin said.
“This is a project on such a scale that philanthropy is really a key piece to the project,” said PCDC project manager Sarah Yeung.
Eastern Tower will continue to depend upon public and foundation support when the community center is constructed.
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“I don’t know of many other projects in the city that are doing this kind of financing dependent on public sources,” Yeung said.-30-
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