In West Philadelphia’s Mantua neighborhood, we’ve covered a smattering of new construction projects over the past year or so. Despite the fact that some development is taking place in the neighborhood, more than 44 percent of its residents are classified as living in poverty, according to a 2010 HUD Choice Neighborhood Initiative (CNI) grant summary. There, according to the summary, the vacancy rate is three times that of the county.
Map of Mantua
To infuse the neighborhood with a fresh sense of vitality, HUD awarded Mantua and Mt. Vernon Manor, Inc., the federal housing project located at various sites from Haverford to Fairmont Ave. between 32nd and 34th Streets,with a $250K CNI grant. The CNI initiative brings together various community partners and state and city agencies to transform distressed neighborhoods and publicly assisted projects into sustainable communities.
Partners for this project include neighbors, Drexel, Penn, and civic groups and local institutions like the People’s Emergency Center and Sustainable Community Initiatives – West. Last year, the steering committee and planners from Kitchen and Associates (KA) and Diamond and Associates collected community input at various meetings and other events. This year they’ll begin to hold meetings to collect community review, with a planned construction start date of 2012 and projected completion date in 2013, according to the Mantua Transformation Plan produced from the process, prepared by KA, published this June.
One Mount Vernon Manor location
The sign's looking worn after over thirty years
The centerpiece of the planning effort for the Mantua neighborhood, defined by the study as home to 5,924 residents between 31st and 40th Streets, and Spring Garden Street and Mantua Avenue, is the transformation and renovation of the Mt. Vernon Manor Apartments, a 21 building, 125 unit complex constructed by HUD in 1978. As of June 2012, according to the plan, only 55 units were occupied. Many of the locations are worn down, and suffer from mold, mildew and damaged gutters. Plans call to improve the living conditions in two phases, the first targeting households with a household income of or at 60% of AMI. Beyond that, the plan, as usual, calls for improvements to public spaces, schools and general community aesthetics.
A Mount Vernon Manor location already under some construction
Possible image of the future, from the plan
“Plan or be planned for,” the study says. “WAM! We are Mantua.”