In traditionally low-funded areas in West Philadelphia, like neighborhoods including Mantua and Powelton Village, a new designation by the President as a promise zone presents an opportunity for groups in these neighborhoods to receive additional federal dollars for improvement projects.

Philadelphia was selected as one of five cities nationwide to be included in the Obama administration's Promise Zone Initiative to increase the capabilities of partnerships between local groups and public officials. The designation means the area will receive more attention from lawmakers when they distribute federal dollars but does not necessarily guarantee any money. Philadelphia’s promise zone is a nearly two-square mile area bordered by the Schuylkill River on the east, Girard Avenue on the north, 48th Street to the west and Sansom Street to the south. It is home to 35,315 residents. The poverty rate in the area is 50.78%, nearly double the city’s rate of 26.9%.

The President. Image from Reuters.

The key strategies in Philadelphia include:

1.) Putting people back to work through skills training and adult education; classes on small business development to support entrepreneurs; loans and technical assistance for small resident-owned businesses; and the development of a supermarket providing both jobs and access to healthy food

2.) Improving high-quality education to prepare children for careers, in partnership with Drexel University and the William Penn Foundation, through increasing data-driven instruction that informs teacher professional development; developing school cultures that are conducive to teaching and learning; mentoring middle and high school youth with focus on college access and readiness; and increasing parent engagement.

3.) Preventing and reducing crime in order to attract new residents and long-term investments, through strategies such as focused deterrence, hot spots policing, and foot patrol.

The initiative will be carried out through a far-reaching collaborative effort with the Mayor’s Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity serving as the lead agency throughout the process. According to the City, the proposal will leverage more than $575M in funding and anticipates future public and private investment of $250M. Implementation and supporting partners include Drexel University, Mt. Vernon Manor, Philadelphia LISC, People’s Emergency Center, Philadelphia School District, PRA, the City’s Commerce Department, PHA, Office of Housing and Community Development and others. Hopefully, this effort will make a difference in a part of the city that needs help.