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For Neighborhood Development: $28 Million Partnership with Citizens Bank

Penn and Citizens Bank recently announced a sweeping $28 million neighborhood development initiative to upgrade housing, expand business opportunities and bolster the working capacity of community-based organizations in University City.

The unprecedented investment, which will stretch over five years, was announced at a City Hall news conference. It will bring together a partnership of University City institutions, neighborhood organizations and nonprofit agencies to participate in a comprehensive strategy for continuing the revitalization of this area.

"This neighborhood initiative is a classic example of a project that will enhance and improve the University City area," said Mayor John F. Street. "I commend Citizens Bank and the University of Pennsylvania for creating a longstanding, comprehensive plan to address the concerns of the area and enhance housing and business opportunities," he added.

"This partnership will have a significant impact on University City and the surrounding areas by building on the improvements and investments made by the University of Pennsylvania and neighborhood groups," said Stephen D. Steinour, Chairman & CEO of Citizens. "Citizens Bank is committed to making our neighborhoods a better place to live and to creating jobs for residents," Mr. Steinour noted.

"We welcome Citizens Bank as a new partner in support of West Philadelphia neighborhoods," said President Judith Rodin. "We look forward to more affordable housing and small business development during the coming five years as a result of this extraordinary commitment, and I am grateful to Steve Steinour and his colleagues for their vision and leadership."

Along with housing and economic development, the initiative seeks to address vacant or underused and unused properties that substantially contribute to neighborhood blight, beautify the streetscapes and other infrastructure at key entry points into University City and provide landscaping and tree/plantings maintenance throughout major arteries in the neighborhood.

Bank and Penn officials said the program would have the greatest impact, however, on low- and moderate-income residents of University City, with nearly half of the pledged funds designated for construction of new housing and rehabilitation of existing dwellings; and on the area's commercial corridors, with an equal amount earmarked for economic development assistance.

The initiative will cover residents and businesses within the boundaries of 30th Street on the east; 52nd Street on the west, Haverford Avenue on the north and the Schuylkill River on the east and south. Penn and Citizens Bank will seek the participation of institutions and community-based organizations in University City.

Under the initiative, called the University City Neighborhood Improvement Program (UCNIP), Citizens Bank will create a $10 million Citizens Neighborhood Housing Development Fund that will be used to provide acquisition and development financing to community groups for projects such as the rehabilitation of vacant houses on the 4400 and 4500 blocks of Sansom Street.

The program will use $1.5 million to establish the Citizens Bank Land Acquisition Pool, a fund to help community development corporations and other nonprofit organizations acquire land and vacant property targeted for future development at a low (2.5%) rate of return.

In addition to the Citizens Neighborhood Housing Development Fund, the UCNIP initiative will provide $5 million for mortgage loan allocation. Called Citizens Neighborhood Plus Mortgage, the program will provide up to 100 % financing at 1% below the market rate for applicants living in low-income census tracts. Applicants who reside in moderate-income census tracts and have incomes below 80% of the median family income would be eligible for a mortgage rate at half % below market rate.

Another $1.5 million has been designated for home improvement financing to qualified applicants under the Citizens Bank Home Repair Program.

"This announcement is welcome news for University City," said Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell. "The partnership will help create the financial backing needed for several neighborhood ventures that my office has been supporting through our West Philadelphia on the Move initiative," the Councilwoman stated.

"With this initiative, Citizens Bank will help real citizens restore and reinvigorate the community," said U.S. Representative Chaka Fattah, whose district includes West Philadelphia. "I am pleased to welcome Citizens Bank as a partner in our ongoing effort to revitalize University City."

In an effort to boost neighborhood commerce in University City, the initiative allocates $10 million for Economic Development Investment, to provide financing to qualified small businesses and owner-occupied stores along the Lancaster Avenue and Baltimore Avenue commercial corridors, as well as other commercial corridors in the neighborhood.

The initiative also provides $250,000 over five years for a Citizens Neighborhood Partnership Fund, which will award grants to nonprofit organizations in the collaborative for clean-and-green activities, public safety initiatives, neighborhood planning, marketing, and community development activities. The grants will range from $250 to $10,000, will require at least 1:1 matching funds, and will be limited to 501(c)(3) organizations based in and providing services to residents within the University City boundaries.

The agreement also includes a $50,000 UCD grant to help provide technical assistance for small businesses within the targeted area.

For information about any of these programs, contact Citizens Bank; there is a branch at 134 South 34th Street, (215) 662-0871.


  Almanac, Vol. 49, No. 11, November 5, 2002