Obama designates Philadelphia neighborhood as 'Promise Zone'

MANTUA - January 9, 2014

There are already a number of initiatives underway to improve the area, but this designation will be a real shot in the arm providing access to federal grants for education, housing, public safety, and job opportunities.

At the White House Thursday, President Obama announced that Philadelphia's Mantua section is one of the first five Promise Zones in the country. It means the community will get faster access to federal funding to improve the neighborhood, and there is room for improvement as businesses and homes sit vacant - the poverty rate is above 50 percent and unemployment at 13.6 percent.

At a news conference Thursday President Obama explained, "In Philly, nearly four out of every ten kids lives below the poverty line, and a lot of them are on the west side of the city."

This Promise Zone goes from the Schuylkill River to 48th Street, Girard to Sansom. The federal government will work with local government and community groups to improve housing, public safety, job opportunities and education.

Mayor Michael Nutter attended today's announcement. He says, "This designation is validation, quite frankly, of much of the work that's being done out in the community."

The Philadelphia Emergency Center provides housing for homeless families and has been working with other community groups to bring in new businesses and support those already in the neighborhood.

Kira Strong of the People's Emergency Center tells us, "This puts a really, I think, strong and tight framework to some of these initiatives and really says, 'Let's see what we can achieve in five years.'"

Tracey Evelyn Reed, whose family owns coffee shop on Lancaster Avenue, hopes the federal designation means more businesses will invest here.

"I think that's exciting. We really need that in this area. I see this area growing. I would say a few years ago it was kind of abandoned," said Reed. Customer Tara Byam hopes being in a Promise Zone will now mean more job opportunities.

"It's hard. I don't know how they expect people to make it if they don't create jobs."

The city does plan to use any federal funding for job training. This neighborhood also wants to partner with Drexel University to help prepare children for future careers and reduce crime through additional community policing.

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