Powel and SLA-MS

In December 2019, Drexel University and the School District of Philadelphia held a groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate the new construction of a 2-story 90,000 square foot school building in the Powelton section of Philadelphia, a federally designated Promise Zone with a poverty rate of 48%. Fast-forward to 2021, and the construction project is now complete, made possible by financial support of a mix of public and private sources, even during this unprecedented time.

A K-8 school campus, this project co-locates two high-performing neighborhood public schools – Powel Elementary School and Science Leadership Academy Middle School (SLA-MS) – in one facility. By moving the Powel School to this new building, the school can add another classroom per grade (from two classrooms per grade to three), which will increase the number of high performing seats available to children in West Philadelphia. The student population will increase by 46% across both schools and full-time equivalent jobs will increase. Located in the heart of University City, the Powel and SLA-MS K-8 campus is uniquely positioned to connect its diverse students to the local universities, hospitals, museums and cultural institutions, and to create career pathways to the economy of the future. 



Design Firm: Rogers Partners  •  Photo credit: © Albert Vercerka/Esto


“Drexel is deeply committed to supporting the schools in the neighborhoods around its West Philadelphia campus, and this project is one example of how the University has sought to be a good partner,” said Dr. Lucy Kerman, senior vice provost for University and Community Partnerships at Drexel University. “Through a Department of Education Promise Neighborhood grant, we have created partnerships with the City, School District, and nonprofit and community organizations to provide academic enrichments and a range of support to families in the Promise Zone.  Helping to create a new facility to house Powel and SLA-MS is just one of the many initiatives the University has taken on.”  

The university-school partnership brings a wide array of resources to the K-8 classrooms, from the School of Education to the Colleges of Engineering, Arts and Sciences, Computing and Informatics, Nursing and Health Professions, and Media Arts and Design.  Meanwhile, the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, the Philadelphia Zoo, and the University City Science Center and its FirstHand educational program are ready to provide support through hands-on curriculum units, career exposure, and professional development.  


Early on, to financially support construction of the project, Drexel University and partners sought help from PIDC through New Markets Tax Credits (NMTC). “John Grady, who was [the president of PIDC] at the time, was a huge champion of the project from the very beginning, and he really helped us think about how we might put the capital stack together,” said Dr. Kerman. “PIDC made a significant allocation but, equally important, they advocated for the project with other Community Development Entities (CDE).”  

With the help of four CDEs, generous corporate and foundation grants, funds from the Commonwealth RACP program, the School District of Philadelphia, and an individual donor, the school construction project became a reality.  “Given the needs the School District has for its facilities, it’s very useful to show how these kinds of broad partnerships can come together to make these facilities a reality.  While it may be unusual to use NMTC to support public school construction, they’re a powerful resource,” said Dr. Kerman.


Learn how PIDC can help fund your project with New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC).