Walter R. Livingston, Jr. didn’t live a life of too many regrets. But one thing that haunted the activist, architect and former chairman of the board of the Philadelphia Tribune was having been forced to place his father into a senior care center.
“His spirit was broken and my father saw that,” Livingston’s daughter, Margaret, said of her father. “That was when he said, ‘I’m going to take a special interest during my time as an architect in building facilities where things like this won’t happen.’”
Livingston died in June of this year at the age of 89. However, part of his legacy lives on today in the Apartments at Cliveden, 62 new units of affordable housing in the 300 block of West Johnson Street. At least half are partially subsidized.
Livingston, who served on the board of the residence’s parent company, NewCourtland, was honored – his family was presented with the Ephraim D. Saunders award for exceptional acts of community service – at the Monday opening of the $14.6 million facility.
Mayor Michael Nutter and Congressman Chaka Fattah both addressed a group of a little more than 100 people gathered in a cramped dining room for the occasion. Both Nutter and Fattah lauded the marriage of public and private supporters that – along with significant stimulus money – are the financial lifeblood of the project. Supporters included PNC Bank, Federal Home Loan Bank, Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency and the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority.
Nutter, who grew up in West Philadelphia, told the story of how he grew up with his grandmother, who did not want to leave the city when his parents moved away but was limited in her ability to care for herself.
“This would have been a place where my grandmother could have come to,” Nutter said. “It is where my passion for seniors and senior housing comes from. This is a model we should be looking to replicate all across the city. It is the epitome of true public and private partnership.”
According to Nutter, of the 10 largest American cities, Philadelphia has the largest percentage of population 60 years old or older. He also said that more than 14 percent of the population is 65 or older and that that number is expected to double by 2035.
Nutter pointed out that last week Travel & Leisure Magazine named Philadelphia the top city in the country in the categories of history and culture. He said the city must do more to make the city more user-friendly for its aging population.
“We need safe and walkable streets so that seniors can get around and do what they need to do,” he said. “We need more businesses and organizations that really cater to the senior population. But the most important thing is that we need affordable housing to support it all, and this is what this is about.”
Nutter commended Livingston’s commitment to improving the lives of elderly Philadelphians. A practicing architect for more than 55 years, most recently with the Livingston Group in Colwyn, he and his firms were involved in the designs of such notable local sites as Zion Baptist Church, Triumph Baptist Church, Edison High School, Progress Plaza, the Clef Club and the Criminal Justice Center.
Livingston served on numerous other boards, including those of Berean Federal Savings Bank, the Youth Study Center, Stapely hall in Germantown, the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, and the American Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Cheyney University and a master’s degree in urban planning from the University of Pennsylvania.
“He had many, many interests,” said another daughter, Mary, who also serves on the Tribune board. “He did a lot of work involving seniors. He had a soft spot in his heart for families who could not afford elderly housing.”