The City of Philadelphia Secures Unprecedented Federal Grant for Chinatown Stitch Infrastructure

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PHILADELPHIA, PA — The City of Philadelphia has secured a formidable $158.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). Awarded under the Neighborhood Access and Equity (NAE) initiative, this grant marks the largest single award for the city, made possible by the auspices of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).

A historic feat, the funding will remarkably fuel the final design and implementation of The Chinatown Stitch, a remarkable highway capping project poised to reconnect the cultural enclave with the broader downtown area of Philadelphia.

This monumental project is a testament to the relentless efforts of the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation (PCDC), with substantial backing from the City. The genesis of the initiative can be traced back to February 2022, when the City and PCDC were allocated $1.8 million via the Reconnecting Communities and Neighborhoods Program for a comprehensive study on how to bridge Chinatown and downtown across the gaping divide of the Vine Street Expressway.

The Office of Transportation, Infrastructure, and Sustainability (OTIS) and PCDC pooled their resources to reach out to the Chinatown community and the general public, gathering invaluable insights through workshops and surveys. In December, following two rounds of public workshops and interactive surveys, the two-block cap idea emerged as the pinnacle of the trio of alternatives in the Chinatown Stitch Vision Report.

For decades, the corridor of the Vine Street Expressway, stretching across the heart of Philly since the 1960s, dissected the vibrant Chinatown into distinct commercial and residential areas. Springs of resilience bubbled within the community, however, and PCDC, along with Asian Americans United, launched the Chinatown Neighborhood Plan in 2004 seeking to remedy this urban schism.

A pivotal recommendation of the plan was the creation of a public greenspace, specifically a “Vine Street Cover Park,” for the city’s only neighborhood devoid of an accessible shared greenspace. The community-driven initiative won broad support and centered the Chinatown community’s voice in the decision-making process, fortifying the grant application immeasurably.

As the Deputy Managing Director for the City’s Office of Transportation, Infrastructure, and Sustainability, Mike Carroll, aptly summarized, the Chinatown community’s aspiration is for a park over Vine Street. This vision anticipates not only a dash of greenery but also hopes to curtail automobile and noise pollution and rebuild a neighborhood fractured by the expressway.

The transformative effect of the grant award is palpable. Underscoring the significance, John Chin, Executive Director of the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation, said, “If a community has a dream, it has a will. If a community has a will, it has the power to effect change.”

Now, the onus of design and engineering work lies with OTIS, scheduled to kick off in early 2024. Concurrently, the impetus for community engagement will zero in on crafting an Equitable Outcomes Action Plan by PCDC. The anticipation is for construction to commence in 2028 and reach significant completion by 2031.

In concert with this achievement, the City of Philadelphia’s Infrastructure Solutions Team recently printed its inaugural annual report and action plan. This report provides a recapture of their efforts in securing federal investments, chiefly through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act. Their strategy and objectives are set against the backdrop of the largest long-term infrastructure investment in American history.

This historic win for Philadelphia is a testament to the cities commitment to its neighborhoods and the strength of community collaboration.

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