A Nonprofit Buys a Blighted Motel in the Name of Neighborhood Well-Being
STEVE DUBB | April 11, 2018
We all know of stories like this one from Germantown, a North Philadelphia neighborhood. At the corner of Germantown and Westmoreland Street was the Liberty Motel. Neighbors “felt they were under siege by the visitors to the inn, who used its rooms as brothels and narcotics dens.” Writing for the Philadelphia Inquirer, Jacob Adelman notes that, “From 2004 to 2014, police responded to more than 1,800 calls at the motel or within a block of it, made 116 arrests for prostitution and 46 arrests for other crimes, and responded to 20 deaths.”
Located less than a mile away in Hunting Park, the Lenfest Center aims to provide young people with a safe place after school. The Lenfest Center is led by Chase Lenfest, son of H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest, founder of the Lenfest Institute, owner of the Philadelphia Inquirer and a leading supporter of nonprofit journalism. According to Michelle Taylor, a director with North10 Philadelphia, the nonprofit’s community-development arm, the organization also provides coaching, tutoring, and classes to help young people prepare for college or get jobs that pay well.
The Center decided that the motel was at cross purposes to their youth-serving mission and “bought and shuttered” the motel. The Center, Adelman adds, intends to redevelop the site as part of a mixed-use project that will help rebuild the surrounding commercial corridor.