RECOGNIZING the needs of Chinese and other Asian-American communities in Philadelphia, Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley yesterday announced a significant state grant to help build the Eastern Tower Community Center, a long-awaited project just north of Chinatown.
Standing at a podium at the 10th Street Plaza, a renovated concrete park hugged by rumbling traffic at 10th and Vine streets, Cawley told Chinatown community leaders, local and state politicians and others sitting in folding chairs that the state will provide a $3.7 million Economic Growth Initiative grant toward the project.
The project, spearheaded by the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corp., will result in a mixed-use 23-story tower at the northwest corner of 10th and Vine, now a parking lot.
The tower will house Chinatown's first community center, a preschool and after-school programming run by the Chinatown Learning Center, a bilingual health center, a gym, offices, retail shops and 143 apartments - 31 of which will be subsidized by PCDC for poor and low-income residents.
Groundbreaking is expected early next year.
City and state officials, including state Sen. Larry Farnese, D-Phila., and City Councilman Mark Squilla, whose district includes Chinatown, praised the leadership of John Chin, PCDC's executive director, and Andy Toy, PCDC's managing director for the Eastern Tower Community Center, for their persistence in obtaining funding for the project and overcoming obstacles.
Noting the Vine Street Expressway traffic below the 10th Street Plaza, Toy said the new tower, to be built on the north side of Vine, will connect Chinatown with a section of North Philadelphia called Chinatown North.
"We're really doing this to really bridge this gap, and create a new area of development for our city beyond Vine Street," he said.
The project, he said, will create nearly 1,000 construction jobs and more than 300 full-time jobs when completed.
Toy said after the event that the $75 million project is being primarily funded by foreign investors, who will provide $33 million through the federal EB-5 immigrant-visa program, and by a $19 million bank loan.
Cawley cited these statistics showing the needs of Philadelphia's Asian community:
* 56 percent of ethnic Chinese families are low-income.
* 17 percent of Asian-Americans are unemployed compared with the city average of 12 percent.
* 61 percent of the ethnic Chinese population has limited English proficiency, the highest percentage of all ethnic groups in the city.
* More than 25 percent of Chinese-Americans don't have health insurance.
"This revitalization project will serve as a place for goods, services, jobs and additional programs to enhance the quality of life for all who surround this center," Cawley said.