HUD chief tours West Philly ‘Promise Zone’

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     Mayor Michael Nutter and HUD Secretary Julian Castro tour the Mantua neighborhood of West Philadelphia. (Marielle Segarra/WHYY)

    Mayor Michael Nutter and HUD Secretary Julian Castro tour the Mantua neighborhood of West Philadelphia. (Marielle Segarra/WHYY)

    The zone is part of a federal initiative to improve education, lower crime rates, and bring business to poor neighborhoods.

    The secretary of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development visited West Philadelphia Friday to tour the city’s “Promise Zone.” The zone is part of a federal initiative to improve education, lower crime rates, and bring business to poor neighborhoods. 

    The Promise Zone designation will give the Mantua section of West Philadelphia preference when seeking federal grants. The area is awaiting approval for 10 programs. Businesses in the zone could also receive tax breaks to move into the area if Congress passes pending legislation.

    During his visit, HUD Secretary Julian Castro focused on early childhood education. He praised a new $4 million partnership between the William Penn Foundation and Drexel University that seeks to improve the quality of child care in the area.

    “The best way to ensure that a young person gets ahead is to make sure she never gets behind in the first place,” Castro said. “This is a perfect example of the kind of collaboration between the public sector, the nonprofit sector, and the community that is helping to lift up places like West Philadelphia.”

    The partnership is funded through the William Penn Foundation, not federal grants. But it’s the type of program the Promise Zone hopes to encourage.

    Castro said there’s a lot involved in revitalizing a neighborhood. 

    “In terms of advancing a community, the challenge is not only education,” he said. “It’s about housing; it’s about jobs; it’s about access to technology. And I can’t think of a city that is getting this together better than Philadelphia.”

    This was Castro’s first visit to one of the five Promise Zones named earlier this year.

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