On October 20, 2016, against an apropos backdrop of the 10th Street Plaza, built on the Vine Street Overpass that connects Chinatown to Chinatown North, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced an investment of $1.3 million in Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) funding for, in part, Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation’s (PCDC) Eastern Tower Community Center (ETCC) Project. Addressing a group of community residents and other project funders, Governor Wolf said, “This project will bring the first enclosed recreation center for the community and it will be a wonderful addition to this neighborhood, providing real services and economic benefit to those who live and work here.” Rep. Michael O’Brien, an ardent supporter of the project, said, “The creation of a community center serves to unite a community that was cut in half by the Vine Street Expressway.” Ms. Carol Wong, the president of the STAR-4 rated Chinatown Learning Center, and her team of her young pupils recited the Pledge of Allegiance for the attending dignitaries and community residents. The Chinatown Learning Center is one of many local organizations that look forward to calling the Eastern Tower Community Center home.
“The ETCC will finally drive the growth of Chinatown North across the Vine Street Expressway and support the revitalization of the 10th Street commercial corridor,” said John Chin, Executive Director of PCDC who also announced that with the help of the RACP grant, construction is set to start in coming months.
“The Children of Chinatown will finally have their home court,” said Harry Leong, the President of the Philadelphia SUNS, the local youth basketball team that recently raised $15,000 for the community center. In addition, the building will offer language and culturally competent recreational, educational, and wellness programs to people of all ages.
The Eastern Tower Community Center, a $75 million 200,000 sq ft mixed-use Project, will be built upon a diversified building program, a development team with significant experience in urban mixed-use projects, and a creative mix of financing sources. Its building program, containing 17,000 sq ft of community center space, 8,700 sq ft of ground floor retail, 21,000 sq ft of office space, and 150 rental apartments, appeals to a diversified revenue base. Its public-private development team, a partnership between Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation and JNA Capital, Inc., implemented a creative financing structure that includes New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) from the Commonwealth Cornerstone Group; two key private equity partners who are investing over $11 million; senior debt from Citizens Bank of Pennsylvania and Parke Bank as co-lenders; international investment through the Global City Regional Center, LLC—a Philadelphia based USCIS approved EB5 Regional Center that focuses on urban mixed use economic development projects; philanthropic/government support; and community donations. “The story of the Eastern Tower and its creative use of EB5 funds will resonate with non-profit and for-profit developers of economic development projects in the Philadelphia area and Chinatowns across the United States,” said Ahsan Nasratullah, CEO/Manager of Global City Regional Center, LLC.
“The community center project, that has been in the making for over a decade, will be the crown jewel of PCDC’s 50-year history,” said Cecilia Yep Moy, former Executive Director of PCDC. Yep Moy founded the organization in 1966 to preserve, protect, and promote Chinatown as a viable ethnic, residential, and business community.
About Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation PCDC)
PCDC is a Philadelphia nonprofit community development corporation established in 1966 with a mission to preserve, protect and promote Philadelphia’s Chinatown as a viable ethnic, residential and business community. Since its inception, PCDC has developed more than 320 units of mixed-income housing and 27,000 square feet of retail space; it has also implemented streetscape improvement projects. It sponsors community program services and has been recognized with numerous national awards.
About the New Markets Tax Credit Program
The New Markets Tax Credit Program was established by Congress in 2000 to spur new or increased investments in operating businesses and real estate projects located in low-income communities. The NMTC Program attracts investment capital to low-income communities by permitting individual and corporate investors to receive a tax credit against their federal income tax return in exchange for making equity investments in specialized financial institutions called community development entities, such as Commonwealth Cornerstone Group. The program is administered by the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
About EB5 Regional Center Program:
Global City Regional Center, LLC is a multi-state Regional Center designated by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to raise, invest and manage a fund through the Immigrant Investment Program (EB-5 Program) in support of job creating projects in economically distressed areas.
About JNA Capital, Inc:
JNA Capital, Inc. is a boutique real estate finance and development company that sources debt and equity for commercial and mixed-used real estate projects for its own account and also for selected non-profit and for-project sponsors. Having background in urban planning, JNA brings added dimensions to its financing and development services. It provides financial structures that include New Markets Tax Credits (NMTC), Historic Tax Credits; EB5 financing, full range of debt financing ranging from conventional to securitized and financial derivatives.