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The check presentation on Friday, Oct. 14. Photo: Jensen Toussaint/AL DÍA News.
The check presentation on Friday, Oct. 14. Photo: Jensen Toussaint/AL DÍA News.

$2.3 million of grants to revitalize the Lancaster Avenue commercial corridor

The funding will go toward constructing two mixed-use buildings on the 4200 block of the area, expanding the New Africa Center, and creating affordable housing.

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The Islamic Cultural Preservation and Information Center (ICPIC) took the next step in its goal of revitalizing and transforming the 4200 block of Lancaster Avenue’s commercial corridor. 

On Friday, October 14, the ICPIC announced $2.3 million worth of local and state grant funding toward this effort. The funding will be used to put together a project that will include the construction of two mixed-used facilities. 

The first phase of this multifaceted plan is to build a mixed-use multi-purpose facility that will serve as an anchor for future developments on Lancaster Avenue. The vacant lots at 4237, 4239, 4241 and 4243 Lancaster Avenue will be consolidated into a single new five-story multi-use facility. 

The second phase is the expansion of the New Africa Center/Muslim American Museum & Archive, which will be housed in the first-floor commercial space of the new facility. The upper four floors will be developed into 35 affordable housing units, ranging from studios to two-bedroom apartments.  

In addition, the vacant lots at 4234, 4236, 4238 and 4240 on Lancaster will be consolidated to construct a four-story mixed-use building. The first floor will consist of three commercial spaces, while the upper floors will house six apartment units. 

Overall, the project will have four commercial units and 41 apartment units, effectively stabilizing the 4200 block of Lancaster Avenue will providing a new mix of businesses and apartments along the neighborhood.

It will also serve as an anchor for the community’s New Freedom District Initiative, which promises to preserve the unity, dignity and humanity of the African American community by highlighting its cultural history of institutions, organizations, and events.

State Senator Vincent Hughes noted that he could not say ‘no’ to this effort, due to the ICPIC and New Africa Center’s mission to preserve, protect and elevate the cultural heritage of Islam in America. 

“Teamwork makes the dream work,” said Sen. Hughes. “All of us working together, communicating with one another.”

City Councilmember Jamie Gauthier also praised the work being done, in that it is a contrast from the negative that often gets highlighted, such as gentrification, rising home prices, and Black people getting displaced from their communities.

“The reason why I love this project is because it’s the exact opposite of that. This is about development that is for us, that is by us,” said Gauthier. “This is not about housing that nobody in this area can afford. It’s not about erasing the history and culture here in favor of something nondescript, that people in this neighborhood can’t connect to. It’s not about replacing the people in this neighborhood with other people.” 

“What you're doing is highlighting all the beauty and the history in the culture that exists and has existed for decades right here on Lancaster Avenue,” she added. 

This project is being developed by Mosaic Development Partners, a Philadelphia-based, Black-owned commercial real estate development and project management company.

Due to the many great elements of this project, Leslie Smallwood-Lewis, founder and co-owner of Mosaic Development, said there was no way she could bypass it.

“It has been such a wonderful journey… this is just the beginning,” she said, adding she hopes to break ground on this development in 2023. 

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