In 2000, areas like the 3100 block of West Berks Street in Strawberry Mansion, north of Girard Avenue near the Schuylkill River, were in major disrepair. Something had to be done to revitalize this part of town and bring in residents who would take ownership seriously.
Which is why, in 2001, Mayor John Street launched the Neighborhood Transformation Initiative (NTI), to change that block (which did happen) and others. With nearly $300 million in bonds, there was bite to the bark for change.
With the program wrapping up, there is a remaining $37 million that must be spent by March or be returned to shareholders. While the restoration of the Divine Lorraine Hotel is one of the beneficiaries of this money, there are many other areas in need.
When NTI began, there were an estimated 57,000 vacant properties. Now, there are about 40,000 of them.
Almost 50 percent of NTI's budget was spent on demolitions, although only half of the 14,000 buildings planned to come down actually did.
The Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority is working on a public presentation toward the end of 2015, which will tally up the change that NTI has had. It's expected to show an increase in affordable housing units, less blight, more economic development projects, and higher investment.
It's known that Mayor John Street's aim was to improve outlying neighborhoods, while his predecessor Ed Rendell focused on Center City's improvement.
Are we in a better Philly?