The Promise of Promise Zones
Lee Huang | January 21, 2014
The White House recently announced that the Mantua neighborhood in West Philadelphia has been designated as a “Promise Zone,” which gives the area preferential treatment when applying for federal aid and which may also come with tax breaks for businesses that create jobs inside the zone. Whether or not this designation will have a significant positive effect on Mantua remains to be seen – the track record of place-based federal economic development initiatives is mixed at best – but already it has shone a spotlight on a part of Philadelphia that could definitely use a boost.
Thankfully, this designation has also shone a spotlight on the strong partnerships that already exist in the area. Mt. Vernon Manor, Inc., People’s Emergency Center, LISC Philadelphia, and Drexel University are just four out of many organizations working hard and working together in Mantua, and it seems promising that the Promise Zone designation will encourage even more collaboration.
To what end are these collaborations being pursued? To attract new business and investment, increase employment, improve housing, and raise educational opportunities at all levels. It’s what is needed in every neighborhood in Philadelphia, and there’s particular hope that Mantua can pull this off – and not just because of its Promise Zone designation but also because of some inherent advantages it has going for it, like: proximity to Center City and 30th Street Station; big institutions nearby like Drexel, Penn, Philadelphia Zoo, Please Touch Museum, and Mann Music Center; and strong commercial corridors and neighborhood groups committed to seeing things through. In other words, keep an eye out on Mantua.