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Schuylkill Yards developer commits $5M to West Philly neighborhood initiative

Brandywine Realty Trust will put $3.1M toward affordable housing

A rendering of Schuylkill Yards in Philadelphia. In the foreground is a park with trees and a lawn. In the distance are tall skyscrapers and buildings.
About $5 million will be invested into West Philly neighborhoods as part of the $3.5 billion Schuylkill Yards.
Renderings by SHOP Architects/West 8

The developer of the multi-billion dollar project Schuylkill Yards planned for University City is set to commit $5.6 million into West Philly neighborhoods through a neighborhood initiative, which will include $3.1 million in affordable housing.

Brandywine Realty Trust announced today that as part of Phase 1 of the Schuylkill Yards, the Neighborhood Engagement Initiative will directly address and fund five specific areas that neighbors of the future project have highlighted in past community meetings: Boosting small, local, and minority businesses as well as new jobs; affordable housing and preservation; and educational support.

The initiative is being touted as the largest program of its kind in Philly and is the result of months of community meetings and talks with neighborhood stakeholders and residents. Brandywine is set to make an official announcement today with Mayor Jim Kenney and Penn Medicine, both who have similar programs underway with Rebuild and PennAssist, respectively.

Schuylkill Yards is a $3.5 billion mixed-use project with Brandywine and Drexel University at the helm. The project, which aims to transform West Philadelphia into a leading innovation hub of the region, will be built on 14 acres of land and feature multiple new high-rises dedicated to labs, retail, and residential.

Here are the specifics on Brandywine’s initiative:

$3.1 million will fund affordable housing and community development

One of the most-voiced concerns among the West Philly community has been how Schuylkill Yards will impact their neighborhoods in terms of housing. In response, the developer said it will commit a multi-million dollar grant to a joint community fund that will then be allocated between Mantua and Powelton neighborhoods.

For future development at Schuylkill Yards, five representatives from neighborhood organizations will be a part of a Community Design Advisory Group. And for every planned project, Brandywine will issue a request for proposals (RFP) to West Philly community development corporations and allow them to be co-developers.

$500K will help support small, local, and minority businesses growth

Brandywine will provide this seed capital to what it’s calling the Grow Philadelphia Capital Fund. In partnership with the Enterprise Center, these funds will be provided directly to City of Philadelphia Minority Enterprises, which will in turn use it to enhance economic and employment opportunities to locals.

In addition to the $500,000, a percentage of construction contracts involved with Schuylkill Yards will go toward the fund. Contractors will be required to meet minority and local contracting goals as established by the contract—if they don’t, their fees will be put toward the Grow Philadelphia Capital Fund.

In addition, the developer is planning for future Schuylkill Yards tenants to receive a 10 percent discount when they buy from West Philly businesses.

An educational program will provide training for both construction and non-construction careers

The Construction Apprenticeship Preparatory Program (CAPP) will be a 15-week program that will help prep those who want to go into the construction industry; 25 West Philadelphians have already started CAPP and have gone on to pass exams.

Of the apprenticeship program, Mayor Jim Kenney said, “Philadelphians who haven’t yet benefitted from our city’s recent development and construction boom, will have the opportunity to partake.”

Most recently, Schuylkill Yards earned City Council approval to move forward on the first phase of the project, which will include 4.6 acres of new development: A 1.3-acre park called Drexel Square, the renovation of the Bulletin Building, and the build-out of 3001-03 JFK Boulevard and 3025 JFK Boulevard.

Brandywine is expected to break ground on the first phase this summer.