When Matt Pestronk’s Post Brothers first began working on The Poplar, an apartment building on the rise in an old Northern Liberties warehouse, it wasn’t just a gauntlet of city agencies from which the company needed to seek approval.
More importantly, Post Brothers needed a nod from Richard Allen New Generation, the West Poplar neighborhood association helmed by A. Bruce Crawley, former communications director for Mayor John Street, and a longtime civic leader in Philly. In the usual way of doing things, Richard Allen could have demanded “community benefits” from Post Brothers in the form of a cash donation for parks or recreation centers.
“That we can’t be a part of the economy is a joke,” Crawley said. “We’re tired of developers coming in and setting up fences around the lot, tired of hearing that the people doing skilled trades in the city, 80 to 90 percent of them, live in the suburbs. We don’t want a handout; we want to work.”
But to Crawley—and to Pestronk, for that matter—that one time payout was not really the kind of benefit his community needed in the face of encroaching gentrification potentially accelerated by The Poplar. Instead, Pestronk and Crawley negotiated for something much more valuable: jobs—in particular that 10 percent of The Poplar’s construction workers hail from the surrounding neighborhood, and half those helping to build the project are women or people of color.
“That we can’t be a part of the economy is a joke,” Crawley said at “Show Me The Money,” a Development…for Good event last week at Fitler Club. “We’re tired of developers coming in and setting up fences around the lot, tired of hearing that the people doing skilled trades in the city, 80 to 90 percent of them live in the suburbs. We don’t want a handout; we want to work.”
The Post Brothers/Richard Allen arrangement that both Crawley and Pestronk described at the event—which was also sponsored by Post Brothers—was a remarkable example of the kind of impact that booming development—when carefully and civically considered—can have on our city’s economic inequality.
It was one of several ideas shared by our panel, which also included Laura Slutsky, executive director of the Urban Land Institute, and Charles Lomax, co-founder of Lomax Real Estate Partners and treasurer of the Philadelphia Accelerator Fund, a public-private partnership to help fund real estate projects by and for Black Philadelphians.
“Show Me The Money” was the second event in The Citizen’s year-long Development…for Good series, powered by Fitler Club and Drexel’s Lindy Institute for Urban Innovation, with partners including Post Brothers, the Center City District, Darco Capital, Brandywine Realty Trust, Shift Capital, JLL, HRP, FirstTrust Bank and Clarke & Cohen.
Watch the discussion in the video above, and check out a few more snaps from the evening below. We hope you can join us for our next event. Keep track by regularly checking out our events page, or by signing up for our newsletter.