The Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation says it will pull building permits and begin construction on the Eastern Tower, a 23-story mixed-use apartment complex and community center at 10th and Vine streets, in the next six to nine months. The group held a meeting Tuesday night at the Chinese Christian Church & Center one block west of the site of the proposed project to update Chinatown residents on the progress of the development.
The building will contain 143 residential units, 31 of which will be affordable for “moderate income” households earning up to 80 percent of Area Median Income, according to PCDC. The building is being designed by architectural firm KlingStubbins and Lisa Armstrong of A K Architecture.
Thomas Betz, pastor at Holy Redeemer Chinese Catholic Church and president of PCDC, opened the meeting by saying that the Eastern Tower project--which is “really about to happen”--will help build a bridge for the Chinatown community across the Vine Street expressway. PCDC director John Chin said the project will be a new landmark for the growing Chinatown North community, and will help to “protect its boundaries, promote the neighborhood, and preserve its cultural identity.”
The developers are still rounding up funding for the project, which is estimated to cost $71 million to build. Of that, Citibank is committing $42 million in tax credit funding, according Ahsan Nasratullah of JNA Capital, a real estate financing firm that is working with PCDC on the Eastern Tower project. Another $10 million will come from a series of smaller grants from PCDC itself, the Commerce Department, and, developers hope, a $5 million RACP grant from the state.
Nasratullah also said the team is seeking $22 million to $32 million through the federal “EB-5 Immigrant Investor” program. Under that program, foreign investors can be given a Green Card for permanent residence by investing at least $500,000 in a new commercial enterprise in the United States.
The project will include 10,000 square feet of retail space, plus banquet and recreational space which will be available to the community. The cost to operate the community center is estimated at $255,000 yearly, and John Chin promised that recreational space and community services will always be available to community members.
The developers see the project as a way to protect the Chinatown community by expanding it. Chin said the project would be a “symbol of modern living” and secure the area’s role as “a hub of Asian-American activity.” The market-rate apartments would rent for around $1,700 for a one-bedroom and $2,500 for a two-bedroom, according to Kei Ogawa of JNA Capital.
“We need to secure this asset,” said John Chin, “because others are competing for Chinatown’s customers.”
Jared Brey writes about development, zoning policy, and city government for PlanPhilly.com. He wasn't interested in being a reporter until halfway through a master's program in journalism at Temple University that he intended to parlay into an academic career. His work has appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News, City Paper, Business Journal, and Metropolis.