November Advocacy Update

The Rev. Betsy Ivey, Partners for Sacred Places’ Director of the Philadelphia Fund for Black Sacred Places, and Jennifer Robinson, the Preservation Alliance's Director of Preservation Services, present the new grant program to interested congregations.

Philadelphia Fund for Black Sacred Places Accepting Applications

The Preservation Alliance and Partners for Sacred Places recently launched the Philadelphia Fund for Black Sacred Places (PFBSP). This three-year project will expand equitable access to quality public spaces in Philadelphia’s neighborhoods and support Black congregations’ efforts to maintain their properties, cultural centers, and neighborhood landmarks for future generations.

Applications for grants from PFBSP are open now through January 31, 2024. To be eligible to apply, congregations must be Black-led, located in Philadelphia, and have an active faith community. They also must have a purpose-built religious property with historical, cultural, or architectural value and guarantee that a welcoming, inclusive community space will be freely accessible to the public.

PFBSP grantees will be awarded up to $10,000 in planning grants and up to $250,000 in 1:2 matching grants for both capital and program expenses. They will also receive training, capacity building, and technical assistance. Register for an info session tomorrow, November 17, at 10 AM on completing the PFBSP application.

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Norristown's Old Airy Street Prison Demolition Paused

Last week, Montgomery County pressed “pause” on its plan to demolish the Old Airy Street Prison. The Norristown Municipal Council was set to vote on the demolition permit, but this request by the County postponed its review. Instead, the County will issue a request for information later this year, soliciting proposals to reuse a portion of the space without utilizing county funds.

While there is still much work to be done, this new development represents a major victory for preservation advocates. The Preservation Alliance is working closely with the Friends of the Airy Street Prison as we enter a new chapter in promoting the preservation of the structure. We believe there is a viable development plan for the reuse of the historic prison building that contributes to the Norristown community. 

Read more from the Inquirer

Tax Credit Panel Recording Available

In late October, the Preservation Alliance and Preservation Pennsylvania hosted a panel discussion on strengthening Pennsylvania's historic tax credit program. An excellent panel of national experts, state legislators, and local developers discussed the benefits that can come from strengthening the Commonwealth’s program.

You can review the virtual stream, program, and slideshow from the event. We will continue our advocacy campaign to improve the historic tax credit in the next General Assembly session.

Lawnside Demolition Appeal Denied

The Preservation Alliance joined the Northwood Civic Association and two local religious institutions to appeal the Historical Commission’s approval of the demolition of Lawnside, the historic caretaker’s cottage at Friends Hospital (4641 E. Roosevelt Blvd.) in Northeast Philadelphia. The facility, opened in 1813, was the nation’s first private-sector psychiatric hospital.

The Board of Licenses and Inspections Review recently denied our appeal, affirming the Historical Commission’s approval of the demolition application. The demolition will make way for a new 55,000-square-foot public health center to be built on the great lawn of this National Historic Landmark district. The Preservation Alliance is severely disappointed in the sustained approval to demolish a 164-year-old Victorian building.

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