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March 11, 2015

Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for Bigham Place, affordable housing near public transit, jobs, education and shops


Philadelphia, PA, March 11, 2015
– City and state officials joined People’s Emergency Center (PEC) to celebrate the opening of Bigham Leatherberry Wise Place (Bigham Leatherberry Wise) in West Philadelphia.  Bigham Leatherberry Wise transformed a vacant lot and an existing structure into 11 new affordable homes, seven of which are for formerly homeless women with special needs and their children.

Bigham Leatherberry Wise includes six two-bedroom units and five three-bedroom units (for a total of eleven units).  Two of the units will be fully accessible to people with disabilities and one will be accessible to individuals with sensory impairments. The project reflects community objectives laid down in the 2004 West Powelton/Saunders Park Neighborhood Plan and the more recent Lower Lancaster Revitalization Plan.

“As part of People's Emergency Center's mission to nurture families, strengthen neighborhoods and serve as a catalyst for positive change, Bigham Leatherberry Wise is important to this neighborhood because it provides affordable rentals in a changing neighborhood, and coincides with the homeownership projects in the pipeline in this neighborhood,” said Kathy Desmond, Interim President and CEO of PEC.

Residents of Bigham Leatherberry Wise have access to supportive services through PEC. Services include case management, children’s programs, affordable childcare, counseling and therapy, drug and alcohol out-patient treatment, and employment and training programs. A case management office is located on site for residents to access services and referrals. Bigham Place also features a courtyard containing a rain garden and seating area for residents, as well as a large rear yard to provide a space for children to play.

“Quality, safe, and affordable housing gives families the opportunity to focus on building a home,” said Deborah McColloch, Director, Office of Housing and Community Development (OHCD).  “Providing housing for women and their children gives the parents and the children the chance to thrive in our communities and schools.”

Over the past two decades, the area around the Bigham Leatherberry Wise project has been the focal point of more than $54 million in investments from PEC’s real estate developments and has leveraged many millions more from both the public and private sectors. Not far from Bigham Place, PEC alone has transformed 157 vacant properties into 241 units of affordable housing, including Jannie’s Place, Cloisters III, Homeownership Phase I, Bernice Elza Homes, and Fattah Homes.

Bigham Leatherberry Wise Place is named in honor of three local community organizers who have been important to either the needs of the community or championing the needs of homeless families. Helen Bigham was a PEC Board Member and volunteer crossing several decades of PEC’s history.  John Leatherberry and Elsie Wise both hold leadership positions with the West Powelton Concerned Citizens Council, and are long-standing community organizers. 

Seventy-one people were employed building Bigham Place. The development received funding from the City’s Office of Housing and Community Development and Office of Supportive Housing, as well as FHLBank Pittsburgh, TD Charitable Foundation, The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, and The Reinvestment Fund, for a total investment of $2,695,000.

The Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority (PRA) provided financing assistance for the development.

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