Schuylkill Yards Project To Include Major Community Engagement Component

Brandywine Realty Trust is pledging $5.6 million to promote small business development, job creation, affordable housing and organizational development for the project's West Philly neighbors.

A new community engagement initiative from Brandywine Realty Trust aims to make Schuylkill Yards an engine for community renewal even before the first shovel of dirt is turned.

Brandywine Realty Trust today unveiled another development to rise during Phase One of the Schuylkill Yards project.

This $5.6 million project will build a stronger West Philadelphia through job creation, education and training, small business development, affordable housing, housing preservation and strengthening community organizations.

Brandywine’s community engagement program will include the following major components:

Small, local and minority business development through the establishment of a low-interest pool of capital and a local sourcing initiative.

The Grow Philadelphia Capital Fund will make loans at a low 1 percent interest rate to help city-certified minority business enterprises expand. Brandywine will provide the initial capital pool of $500,000 and dedicate a percentage of every Schuylkill Yards construction contract to the fund. The percentage will be tied to the contractor’s performance, and contractors who fail to meet minority and local contracting and hiring goals may have a portion of their fees withheld and deposited in the fund.

The local sourcing initiative will connect West Philadelphia-based businesses to potential new customers at both Brandywine and Schuylkill Yards. The initiative will facilitate introductions to Schuylkill Yards tenants and offer them a 10 percent discount for purchasing goods and services from West Philly-based firms.

A trade training and apprenticeship program that will get West Philadelphia residents into the skilled-construction-trades job pipeline.

The first cohort of 25 West Philly residents, ranging in age from 19 to 43, is currently going through the Brandywine-sponsored Construction Apprenticeship Preparation Program (CAPP), a 15-week course designed to prepare candidates for the entrance exams and interviews required for placement as apprentices with the skilled building trades unions. Students who pass the exams will be offered employment as an apprentice on a Brandywine project. As of today, eight candidates have passed the carpenter apprentice exam and five of them, all previously un- or underemployed, are working as union apprentices.

A $3.1 million grant to a jointly managed community fund that will support affordable housing, housing preservation, community capacity-building and local public schools.

The fund will support programs that benefit residents of Mantua and Powelton Village. Allocation of the funds will be determined by a Community Fund Management Group composed of representatives from the Mount Vernon Manor Community Development Corporation, Mantua Civic Association, Powelton Village Civic Association, People’s Emergency Center and the Office of the Third Councilmanic District Representative.

The creation of a Community Design Advisory Group to advise Brandywine on the evolution of the Schuylkill Yards project.

The group will consist of representatives of the five organizations named above and will provide feedback on the use and development of Schuylkill Yards sites.

Co-development opportunities for community development corporations (CDCs) in West Philadelphia.

Brandywine will issue requests for proposals to West Philadelphia-based CDCs at the start of each Schuylkill Yards project offering them the opportunity to serve as a paid co-developer. The selected CDC will earn revenue it can use to support its staff and build capacity to take on larger projects.

Brandywine developed these initiatives through extensive discussions with neighborhood organizations and other project stakeholders throughout West Philadelphia. The community engagement program at Schuylkill Yards is the largest such program announced to date in the city.

“A key component of Brandywine’s mission is active support of the communities in which we operate,” Jerry Sweeney, president and CEO of Brandywine Realty Trust, said in a news release. “It’s important that our projects not only serve our investors and partners but also the communities that house them. This initiative emphasizes Brandywine’s commitment to working closely with community stakeholders to improve Philadelphia’s neighborhoods, and ensure Schuylkill Yards serves as a bridge to West Philadelphia communities.”

Mayor Jim Kenney said in the same release, “I’m particularly excited to see Brandywine’s commitment to apprenticeship opportunities and career advancement, which complement the Penn Assist program and the workforce diversity model that my Administration and City Council plan to adopt for Rebuild.  Through this model, men and women will be given real opportunities to learn a trade and to earn money while they learn. And just as importantly, Philadelphians who haven’t yet benefitted from our city’s recent development and construction boom will have the opportunity to partake.”

Formal announcement of the program and its components will come at a 3 p.m. news conference at City Hall.

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