On August 21, 2013, Drexel University, PIDC and US Bank closed on $10.25 million of New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) financing to develop the Dana and David Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships located at 3509 Spring Garden Street in the Mantua Section of West Philadelphia. Expected to open in 2014, the Dornsife Center Project includes the rehabilitation of two historic buildings and a vacant school building totaling more than 29,400-square-feet of space. The total project cost to acquire and renovate the entire property is $15.7 million. The Dornsife Center is named in recognition of the generosity of Drexel LeBow alumna Dana ‘83 and David Dornsife, who donated a $10 million naming gift for this project.
PIDC provided $7 million of its $50 million NMTC allocation received in 2012 through the U.S. Treasury Department’s Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund. US Bank provided an additional $3.25 million in NMTC allocation and $1.4 million in Historic Tax Credits. These credits leveraged Drexel’s contribution of $11.2 million towards the total project costs. PIDC invests its credits in projects that will serve as a catalyst for additional economic activity, eliminate blight, and deliver improved services to disadvantaged individuals and communities.
Centered between the Mantua and Powelton Village neighborhoods, the Dornsife Center will serve as a resource for sharing Drexel University’s expertise and knowledge with the members of the local community. The Center will offer space for activities developed and delivered by all of the University’s participating colleges and schools. Through offerings—such as a free law clinic, community and housing architectural design build programs, environmental engineering services, job training workshops, computer training, health and wellness programming, homework help, and arts collaborations—Drexel faculty, students and professional staff will provide service and instruction as they fulfill the requirements of their academic programs. The Dornsife Center will engage the community and serve as a focal point for most of Drexel’s community development outreach activity. The development of the programmatic initiatives will evolve over time, with members of the community integral to the visioning and planning processes of the Center.
Plans include programs in the following areas:
Recognizing that good health is fundamental to success in all aspects of one’s life, the Center will provide services and programs related to healthy living, such as screenings, fitness classes and counseling. A community kitchen will provide healthy meals and cooking demonstrations using produce grown in the Center’s gardens. The Dornsife Center will house Drexel’s free Law Clinic, offering critical legal assistance and support to local residents.
Architecture students will have a design-build studio to implement solutions to design problems brought by local non-profit organizations and non-profit developers. Residents will observe—and local youth will see first-hand—the options available to them through education.
Computers will be available at the Dornsife Center, providing digital access in a community where fewer than half of the residents have computers in their homes. Neighborhood youth will learn how to create mobile applications and websites, and adults will write resumes and research job opportunities. The Internet will be readily available for answering questions on everything from diabetes and cancer risks to how to enroll in basic benefits.
Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education:
Drexel’s commitment to K-12 partnerships will be enhanced by professional development programming at the Dornsife Center, while summer STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) courses for school children will be available in the Dornsife Center’s classrooms and outdoor gardens.
The Dornsife Center may also house exhibits from the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University introducing neighborhood residents to the Academy. There will also be counseling and workshops for entrepreneurs and small business owners and job training programs for residents.
Drexel’s commitment to helping the underserved can be traced to its founding in 1891, when Anthony J. Drexel created the Drexel Institute to provide working-class men and women with access to an education that would improve their lives and economic prospects in the Industrial Age. Drexel is one of Philadelphia’s top 10 employers and a major engine for economic development in the region. In his 2010 Convocation address , President John A. Fry unveiled his vision for Drexel University as the “most civically engaged university in the United States.” The establishment of the Dornsife Center is a key component to Drexel’s strategy to achieve this goal.
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