A local advocacy group and development company hope to begin construction of Philadelphia's first lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender-friendly affordable senior housing this fall.
The Dr. Magnus Herschfeld Fund, an LGBT advocacy group, and Pennrose Properties, a local development and property management firm that's been in business more than 40 years, have teamed up to build the The William Way Senior Residences at 249-257 S. 13th Street, in the heart of Philadelphia's gayborhood.
The 56-apartment project took a big step forward at Thursday's city council meeting, where council unanimously passed a resolution introduced by First District Councilman Mark Squilla authorizing the city's Redevelopment Authority to sell the property to the development team for about $1.5 million. RDA had been using the existing warehouse as a storage facility.
While zoning variances and city permits and civic group support must be obtained before work can begin, dhmF Board President and long-time gay rights activist Mark Segal found the unanimous support of city council especially sweet.
“It was rewarding, because, I've been carried out...by police on numerous occasions when I was younger,” he said, pointing to the tiered area where the council president sits.
“I fought this council to get gay rights bills passed. I fought this council to get domestic partners (legislation) passed. And today, to come here and say we want the city to partner with us in creating a LGBT-friendly living facility, and having them vote unanimously on that, it was personally very gratifying.”
The apartments aren't just for LGBT people, Segal said. “It's open to anybody and everybody who feels comfortable with the LGBT community.”
Segal, who is also publisher of the Philadelphia Gay News, said not only would this be the first residence of its kind in Philadelphia, it would be rare in the country. He knows of one in LA, none elsewhere.
Segal noted while there are many demographic studies on seniors in Jewish, African American, Protestant and a host of other communities, there aren't many on gay seniors. “It's a new frontier,” he said. “But what we've seen in city after city after city is that LGBT people have the same problems as anybody else. So what we're doing is creating a community for elderly LGBT people where they can feel safe, secure and grow old, and have a very decent form of life.”
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