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NEIGHBORHOOD DREAM COMES TRUE IN GERMANTOWN; $3 MILLION SHOPPING CENTER OPENS ON SITE OF ABANDONED LOT

 PHILADELPHIA, May 21 /PRNewswire/ -- A neighborhood dream to turn an overgrown vacant lot into a thriving retail shopping district was celebrated today as community and business leaders, residents, elected and appointed officials cut the ribbon for a new 20,000-square-foot retail shopping center called Freedom Square, located in the heart of Germantown.
 The shopping center will also have on-site surface parking for some 81 vehicles. An estimated 33 jobs will be created.
 "This is a great day for all of Germantown," said Cornelia Swinson, director of the Wister Neighborhood Council. "It's a resurgence in the community's belief that our neighborhood can be a healthy and profitable one. What has happened has re-energized people's commitment to work on neighborhood improvement issues," she added.
 Freedom Square, situated at Germantown Avenue and Wister Street, is also the culmination of a successful venture between the private and public sectors. Freedom Square Associates, a wholly owned subsidiary of Greater Germantown Housing Development Corporation, a long-time presence in the Germantown community, which has been active in developing housing, was the developer.
 The City of Philadelphia and Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC) provided or helped secure approximately one-half of the total project costs of $2.9 million. Nearly $600,000 of that is from a new program of the City and PIDC called the Neighborhood Development Fund (NDF), designed to help community-based economic development projects such as Freedom Square that was the first recipient of a loan under the program. PIDC also helped secure a UDAG (Urban Development Action Grant) loan from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development of some $350,000. A $400,000 grant from the City's Commerce Department for environmental cleanup and soil work plus a $230,000 grant from the federal Department of Health and Human Services helped round out the public monies.
 Meridian Bank supplied the first mortgage on the project.
 William P. Hankowsky, president, PIDC, underscored the importance of the public, private partnership. "This project is a first-rate example of how we can use public dollars to work with a neighborhood-based development corporation and leverage private financing for a major community venture like Freedom Square," he said.
 Participants at the celebration were treated to a festive atmosphere. A large, white tent was erected on the parking lot; red and white bunting festooned store fronts and hundreds of balloons lent color to the new district. Several stores also ran merchandise specials and giveaways to celebrate the grand opening. They include Rite Aid, the anchor tenant; One Price Clothing, the first to have opened in the center in February 1993; and One Stop Discount. Other retailers include Wine and Spirits, and Blue Ribbon Cleaners.
 Freedom Square was named for a landmark event that occurred in historic Germantown on the site of the current retail center. It was on this site that the first written protest against slavery was drafted in 1688. Since the site has stood for the historical struggle for personal freedom, the name Freedom Square, both commemorating the historic struggle for freedom and signifying the current fight for economic freedom, was chosen.
 In addition, 13 trees have been planted on the perimeter of the shopping district; they represent the 13 founding families of Germantown. The Freedom Square retail project is the cornerstone of a larger overall development that includes 16 townhouses scheduled for completion in the summer of 1993 and a five-story, 47-unit elderly housing project scheduled for completion in September 1993.
 The housing sits behind the retail project on what was once a dye works factory consisting of 18 separate but connecting buildings. The buildings had not been used for their intended original purpose for nearly 10 years. Mounds of used tires and tire rims proliferated. Car parts were scattered all over the site and vegetation grew freely. The entire site was a major eyesore, according to those involved with creating the new project.
 A feasibility study was commissioned and neighborhood residents were consulted as to the best use of the site and both concluded that a retail shopping center plus housing for the elderly and for families would be the best use.
 The overall size of the retail and housing projects is 3.2 acres.
 /delval/
 -0- 5/21/93
 /CONTACT: LaVerne Wiggins of the Greater Germantown Housing Development Corporation, 215-843-6766, or Noreen Shanfelter, communications manager of PIDC, 215-496-8123/


CO: Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation; Greater Germantown
 Housing Development Corporation ST: Pennsylvania IN: REA SU:


MK-MP -- PH004 -- 1106 05/21/93 09:26 EDT
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Date:May 21, 1993
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