Construction has officially begun on the first LGBTQ housing project of its kind in Pennsylvania, the Gloria Casarez Residence in North Philly.
Officials celebrated the start of construction with a ceremonial groundbreaking Wednesday morning at 1315 N. 8th Street. Spearheaded by Project HOME and funded by MPOWER, the first phase of the $13.5 million project will provide 30 units of LGBTQ-friendly housing for young adults between ages 18 and 23 who have aged out of the foster care system and/or are homeless.
The second phase will include another building that will have 40 units of affordable housing for adults who have experienced homelessness. In addition to the 70 affordable housing units, the 36,547-square- foot building will feature a community courtyard, a kitchenette, shared laundry, a gym, and bike storage.
The groundbreaking comes on the heels of a recent city report that highlighted Philly’s youth homelessness problem. Of the nearly 600 homeless youth accounted for in one night in Philly, 31 percent of them identified as LGBTQ.
“We’re thrilled to be able to move forward with this crucial project after such a long, uncertain process,” said Annette Jeffrey, Project HOME’s vice president of development and communications.
Jeffrey was referring to the long and competitive bidding process that Project HOME was involved in over the past year. The land was originally owned by the now-bankrupt North Philadelphia Health System, which began marketing its properties here earlier this year.
Project HOME raised the money to purchase some of the parcels from NPHS and build the project, but higher offers later came to the table, resulting in a bidding war. But by August, the U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Magdeline D. Coleman approved the sale of the property to Project HOME.
At the groundbreaking, the new name of the 1315 N. 8th Street project was revealed as the Gloria Casarez Residence. The late Casarez was the city’s first director of the Mayor’s Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Affairs.