Promise Zones: Revitalizing Neighborhoods One City at a Time

Here in Philadelphia we’re excited about a new federal initiative for revitalizing cities and neighborhoods, especially since it hits close to home. The West Philadelphia neighborhood of Mantua has been chosen as one of the first five “Promise Zones,” struggling urban neighborhoods that nevertheless show a strong community initiative towards revitalizing. These zones will now receive priority attention for a number of federal programs that will support already-in-progress local strategies for change, as well as additional assistance such as a core group of AmeriCorps Vista volunteers and crime reduction assistance.

The current poverty rate in the Mantua neighborhood ranges from 50% to 80% and about 15% of properties are vacant, so there’s a long way to go. But initiatives like the Mantua Civic Association and the Mantua Collaborative have shown such strong dedication to working towards addressing the neighborhood’s challenges that they won their community a place on the very first Promise Zones list.

As released in a White House fact sheet, their key strategies for driving growth in Philadelphia will include:

    • Putting people back to work through skills training and adult education; classes on small business development to support entrepreneurs; loans and technical assistance for small resident-owned businesses; and the development of a supermarket providing both jobs and access to healthy food.
    • Improving high-quality education to prepare children for careers, in partnership with Drexel University and the William Penn Foundation, through increasing data-driven instruction that informs teacher professional development; developing school cultures that are conducive to teaching and learning; mentoring middle and high school youth with focus on college access and readiness; and increasing parent engagement.
    • Preventing and reducing crime in order to attract new residents and long-term investments, through strategies such as focused deterrence, hot spots policing, and foot patrol.

This is an exciting development for an area that has long struggled to gather momentum for change. As fellow Philadelphians, we can’t wait to see how these initiatives take shape.

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