PHILADELPHIA--(BUSINESS WIRE)--A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held today to celebrate the opening of the John C. Anderson Apartments, a pioneering LGBT-friendly, low-income senior housing apartment complex. The apartments - named for John C. Anderson, a Philadelphia City Council member from 1979 until his death in 1983, instrumental in the passage of Philadelphia’s civil rights bill for sexual minority individuals – broke ground in November 2012. The ceremony for the dmhFund and Pennrose Properties’ project was attended by, among others, U.S. Senator Robert Casey, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, a number of Pennsylvania congressional members, state representatives and city council members.
“It’s a dream come true,” said dmhFund president and LGBT civil rights pioneer Mark Segal who spearheaded the project. “To be standing here, looking at all we’ve accomplished, is truly amazing. To know that our seniors, those who paved the way for the rights we have today, finally have a proper home to call their own is just beyond words.”
Financing for the $19.5 million project was provided through a Philadelphia HOME grant, Pennsylvania Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program funds, and Low-Income Housing Tax Credits. Pennrose Properties, one of the nation’s top 10 affordable housing developers, oversaw the project. WRT Design was the architect and Domus Inc. was the general contractor.
“Our involvement with John C. Anderson has been a fantastic opportunity for Pennrose to continue our strong history of partnering with non-profit organizations,” said Richard Barnhart, chairman and chief executive officer, Pennrose Properties. “To develop one of the nation's first LGBT-friendly apartment communities only emphasizes our record of diversity for the customers we serve.”
Beyond local and state support, the project has been championed by the White House and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
A Growing Need
The need for services to the aging LGBT community is well documented. A National Gay and Lesbian Task Force study in 2010 estimated there were 3 million LGBT Americans over the age of 65 and that number will double by 2030. A 2013 study by the Philadelphia Public Health Management Corporation reported that 48 percent of local LGBT seniors found it difficult to afford housing and 13 percent were living in unstable environments – including a rented room, house or apartment where their name was not on the deed/lease or a shelter.
The apartments have partnered with four local organizations to provide social services and events for the residents. The Mazzoni Center, Philadelphia’s LGBT health care and wellness center; ActionAIDS, a Philadelphia-based organization committed to an AIDS-free generation; the William Way Community Center, a Philadelphia community center which seeks to encourage, support and advocate for sexual and gender minorities’ and The Philadelphia Corporation for Aging, a private, non-profit dedicated to improving the quality of life for older Philadelphians will all utilize the building’s community room.
“The John C. Anderson Apartments go beyond just a home,” said Segal. “Whether from a lack of financial resources or fear of discrimination when being honest with service providers about their sexuality, many LGBT low-income seniors have not received the physical, mental and spiritual support they have a right to as human beings. These four community partners will allow us to care for the whole person.”
A Home in the Heart of the Gayborhood
Philadelphia is a fitting home for this senior residence. The “City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection” was ranked the number one most gay-friendly big city nationwide in the 2013 Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index - an evaluation of city and municipal government laws and policies, and an examination of how inclusive city services are of LGBT people. Philadelphia was the highest scoring city of the 10 largest cities and the highest scoring city without state legal protections or marriage-equality legislation. Unlike other quality of life, city atmosphere, or “best cities” rankings, the Municipal Equality Index ranks the work of city government on steps towards LGBT equality. Additionally, the first gay rights march took place in front of Independence Hall in 1965, Pennsylvania was the first state to enact discrimination protection for sexual orientation in state employment in 1975 under Gov. Milton Shapp and Philadelphia was one of the first cities to pass anti-gay discrimination legislation in 1982.
Located at 249 South 13th Street, in the heart of the Philadelphia Gayborhood, the six-story residence has 56 one-bedroom units, each with oversized windows. The Energy Star 3.0 building also features a vegetated green roof and solar thermal hot water system. A 5,000 square-foot enclosed courtyard, outdoor deck and multi-purpose public spaces to be shared by residents and the four community partners, foster a sense of community. Square One Coffee will occupy the nearly 2,000 square feet of ground floor rental retail space. The transformation of the space from a Redevelopment Authority garage into an attractive, well-lit residence adds to the ongoing revitalization of the 13th Street corridor. This location allows residents easy access to all that Center City has to offer – public transportation, world-class shopping, dining, entertainment, and social/healthcare services all within walking distance.
Founded in 2004, the non-profit dmhFund was established to support programs that address concerns in the LGBT community that are overlooked by other traditional sources, including HIV/AIDS education, fighting prejudice, youth services, senior programs and housing, anti-discrimination and race relations within the community. The mission of the dmhFund is to translate the best of contemporary social and medical science into change that protects, enhances and saves lives.
About Pennrose Properties
With more than 30 years of experience, Pennrose combines quality development and proven management to deliver exceptional lifestyle-centered communities for its residents. With the superior knowledge and unparalleled dedication to get the job done right, Pennrose develops and operates both conventional and affordable communities throughout Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Ohio, Maryland, Alabama, Tennessee and Washington, D.C., and continues its successful track record of development in the Mid-Atlantic region and beyond. For more information, visit www.pennrose.com.