By Alicia DiGiovanni and Mark Lauterbach
The Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corp. plans to create a 23-story, multipurpose tower located at the northwest corner of 10th and Vine streets. The first two floors of the building will include the recreational area and the retail space. The rest of the tower will be used for residential units and offices.
The new Eastern Tower Community Center will cover this parking lot on 10th and Vine Streets.
“Zoning’s finally in place and it’s approved. This is going to be the largest building of Chinatown north,” said Andy Toy, PCDC’s managing director for the project.
Both Toy and the PCDC’s goal is to start building next year. It is currently in the process of selecting the perfect architect for the job. The completion of the center is expected to take up to two years.
“The main focus and most important aspect of this new center is that it’s going to be the closest public recreation facility to Chinatown,” Toy said. “It’s convenient.”
The housing units will be rental apartments. Twenty-two percent of the units will be affordably priced in order to accommodate low-income families. Since the main purpose of the community center is to unite the neighborhood, it will be accessible for residents who are young, old, rich and poor.
“The housing aspect is great,” Toy said. “The housing units will have spectacular views of the city.”
The Chinese Cultural and Community Center was the neighborhood’s old center, but it closed down in 2007. The new center is being designed to exceed residents’ expectations which are based on the previous location.
The center will consist of 15,000 square feet of office space, 12,000 square feet of retail space and 144 residential units. It will also have a small garage that holds up to 46 cars.
The Eastern Tower Community Center will be located at 10th and Vine streets.
Zipcar has agreed to provide the center cars that will remain internal to the building. Toy said the company will give the center at least four cars to rent out.
Since the center will be located in an accessible spot, both Toy and the PCDC are trying to get people not to use cars. “Many people won’t need to have a car. The center is only going to be three or four blocks from the Frankford and Regional Rail lines,” Toy said.
Toy said that by choosing to build the center at 10th and Vine Streets, it will help accelerate redevelopment along 10th Street.
“I think that the north side of Chinatown is the perfect location for new businesses and housing,” said Eric Law, resident and owner of Asia Crafts Inc.
The recreation part of the center will feature a gym, a play room with a pool table and a basketball/volleyball court.
“This is all for the Asian-American youth in Philadelphia,” Toy said.
Toy said that the Philadelphia Suns organization has been using a community center in Northern Liberties. After the new center is complete, it will not have to use this space. The organization is committed to utilizing the Eastern Tower Community Center both after school and all summer long to hold various events such as basketball games.
The center will also serve as a banquet hall for weddings and special events. Anyone who rents out the banquet hall will select a restaurant of their choice to cater their event. Toy said that the center will not have a set chef for the catering kitchen.
“We are going to leave it up to the people to choose where they want the food to come from so we don’t start to compete with the big, successful restaurants of Chinatown,” Toy said.
This empty area will be transformed with a 23-story tower overlooking the city.
The center will also have a day care for children as well as senior citizens. “The intergenerational aspect of this community center excites me,” Toy said.
He also envisions the center being used as an alternative to a nursing home for seniors.
“Instead of sending grandparents away, they can congregate with other seniors and then go back to their families at night,” Toy said.
The stores that will make up the retail space are still unknown. However, both Toy and the PCDC have some ideas brewing.
“We may put a coffee shop in there or even a pharmacy,” Toy said. A bank will also be inside the new center. Some of the offices will be for housing, counseling and health services.
The Eastern Tower Community Center will create more than 200 full-time jobs. This multi-service center will give the neighborhood an economic boost and help its plans for the newly developed north side flourish.
“It’s a one-stop shop for residents and creates activity at this corner. It pushes people northward. They won’t have to be afraid of the north or feel unsafe anymore,” Toy said.
This article was created in partnership with Temple University’s capstone journalism course Philadelphia Neighborhoods.