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Abandoned City School to Be Revitalized

NBCPHILADELPHIA.COM, July 13, 2009

Boarded up windows and a dusty gymnasium that has been empty for four years is finally gonna come face to face with students again. John Wanamaker Middle School at 12th and Cecil B. Moore Avenue is making a come back, but with an array of new purposes.

The middle school sits directly across the street from and its owner, Bright Hope Baptist Church who has partnered up with the Goldenberg group, a Blue Bell based developer for its $250 million transformation.

The Bright Hope-Goldenberg Group project will make its mark in the spring of 2010, creating residential towers for Temple University that would house 800 units and alleviate community concerns with neighborhood housing. Also in the works is a small business center to mentor programs for start-up businesses, a charter school, a retail shopping area and training centers focused on the green technologies.

And the Wanamaker school is already a special place, according to Dr. Kevin R. Johnson, senior pastor of Bright Hope Baptist Church. Dr. Martin Luther King attended the groundbreaking ceremony for Bright Hope Baptist, which was held in the auditorium of the Wanamaker school in 1963.

Bright Hope is anticipating another groundbreaking, one that will give back to the community. “Helping the youth and parents, because the children are a reflection of our parents” Johnson said. This effort that Jones refers to as the, “Empowerment Village”, aims to show its concern for the residents in the 19122 area of North Philadelphia, where a high percentage of residents live below poverty level. Johnson calls this venture a “faith project.”

“How Bright Hope could help the community and the people was the church’s focus.” The project that Jones calls “revolutionary” will create electrician, plumbing, carpenter and construction jobs in North Philadelphia. “Most of the projects that we are involved in reutilize abandoned buildings to enhance the neighborhood and protect the environment,” David Mecuris, Senior Vice-President, The Goldenberg Group.

Before settling with the Goldenberg Group, there was emphasis placed on economic empowerment for the community in order to obtain a partnership. “I cannot sign into a project where money will be made in our community and go to another community,” Johnson said. “The building has a blight look to it but I’m waiting for the life to come back.”

At the end of the project, which is expected to take three phases to complete, the once known John Wanamaker Middle School will have a new name, Brighter Hope Plaza.