In the 44 years he has been the pastor at Tenth Memorial Baptist Church, Rev. William B. Moore has seen and contributed to North Philadelphia’s evolution.
Under his pastorate, the church, located at the corner of 19th and Master streets, raised the William B. Moore Apartments in 1992, 62 senior units that today have a wait-list of 163. Shortly thereafter, the church opened low-income homes at 19th and 20th and Master.
The church accomplished all of this in the shadows of Temple University, which Moore once described as a good neighbor. But as the university continues to take strides to drop a 35,000-seat, $130 million stadium and multi-purpose athletic facility just west of Broad Street, he and others feel Temple is becoming more of an encroaching giant and less of a partner.
“When you look at the development in North Philadelphia, it no longer includes the neighborhood. Temple is growing and that is a good thing,” Moore said, “but there is now an insensitivity to the residents and the community that previously did not exist. They [Temple officials] were unable to reach an equitable situation with [Lincoln Financial Field, where the football team plays], so now they are just moving ahead with no regard for the people who in many cases are trapped by circumstances of age and economics.”
Weary of paying more than $1 million annually to rent the home of the Philadelphia Eagles, Temple has been moving aggressively to build a stadium that would be bounded by Broad Street to the east, Norris Street to the north, 16th Street to the west and Montgomery Avenue to the south. Temple has submitted its plan to the city’s Planning Commission and is awaiting approval.
Temple said it has no plans to displace current residents, and the proposed site is owned by Temple. However, Moore and a growing coalition that also includes Temple students and professors oppose the stadium, which, among other things, they say will continue to push minorities and the poor from the rapidly gentrifying area.
“The residents of North Philadelphia are not playing,” said local NAACP President Minister Rodney Muhammad. “We see a proposal for a stadium that we are vehemently against. It is yet another step by Temple University to disempower, disengage and dislocate residents.”
While this is not Temple’s fault — the university is by far the largest employer in North Philadelphia — rapidly changing demographics paint a picture of African-Americans growing more marginalized in that section of North Central Philadelphia.
From 1990 to 2010, according to the U.S. Census, the white population in the area of the proposed stadium, which sits inside the 19121 zip code, has nearly quadrupled, going from 1,490 to 5,524.
Conversely, the African-American population in the same area, known as Brewerytown and Fairmount North, has plummeted from 44,294 to 28,683.
On Thursday, stadium opponents held a town hall at George Washington Carver High School and invited City Council President Darrell Clarke, Temple Board of Trustees President Patrick O’Connor and Temple President Richard M. Englert to attend.
On March 6, Temple will hold its own town hall at 6:30 p.m. at 1913 N. Broad St., where Englert is scheduled to address community concerns.
“I firmly believe this facility will be good for our neighbors as well as the Temple community,” Englert said. “For nearly two years, we have been talking with our neighbors to address concerns over the impact of the project. The information we have presented in recent weeks and our presentation on Tuesday will show we have been responsive to those concerns.”
According to the opposition, the stadium proposal includes the permanent shutting down of 15th Street at Norris, which residents contend would snarl traffic in the area. Other issues are the potential for increased tax burden and rising rental costs, and increased gentrification as for-profit developers benefit from the citywide 10-year tax abatement for new construction.
Last month Temple’s Faculty Senate, which represents the school’s 2,200-member full-time teaching staff, passed a resolution by a 24-1 vote (with three abstaining) urging the Board of Trustees to reverse its decision to apply to the Planning Commission to approve the stadium.
Steve Newman, an English professor and co-producer of the resolution, said the Senate had “deep misgivings” about the stadium. Newman said professors have yet to see a feasibility study for the project. They doubt university officials have been honest with them regarding which community members they are consulting with, and there is also concern about what kind of debt the university will have to take on to build the stadium.
“What we’ve heard from our neighbors is that they have felt ignored during the process. And we have not been been given the data that shows they are making an informed decision,” Newman said.