A movement to spread awareness about breast cancer will get underway this weekend.
The George E. Thorne Development Center is hosting the sixth annual “Praise Is the Cure Week of Hope, Health and Healing” — an event that recognizes the plight of African-American breast cancer patients, survivors and their families.
Anita T. Conner, a 13-year breast cancer survivor, expanded GETDC in 2005 to incorporate Praise is the Cure as a primary initiative.
“God spared me, so I believe he spared me to help somebody else,” said Conner, who is a prominent accountant.
“Our vision is to create a community with less victims and more breast cancer survivors — and our mission is do that by motivating, educating and encouraging African Americans to get their screenings and treatments.”
Conner’s focus on breast cancer awareness comes at a time when more African-American women are dying from the disease than any other ethnic group.
The free event kicks off on September 25 with Praise Sunday, where more than 50 houses of worship will celebrate breast cancer patients and survivors and raise awareness about breast health through pulpit presentations and the dissemination of life-saving information to their constituents. More than 20,000 pieces of breast health literature will be distributed during Praise Sunday.
A children’s festival is scheduled for September 28 at the North Philadelphia YMCA and September 29 at the Abington YMCA. A highlight of the festival includes readings of the book “My Mommy Has Breast Cancer, But She Is Ok!” by survivor Kerri M. Conner. The event is expected to reach about 300 children and their parents.
“Breast cancer affects the whole family, especially our children. As adults we often don’t know how to talk to our children about difficult situations. This gives us an opportunity to bring a very difficult situation to a children’s level and also to help educate the parents on how to talk to their children about things that are going on,” says Conner.
October 1 marks a jam-packed day for the Praise is the Cure Week. The day features a health fair with free mammograms and other screenings, wellness workshops, educational activities and a pampering party for breast cancer patients and survivors. Women and children from the shelter system are being bussed in to participate in the activities.
The breast cancer survivors pampering party serves as the highlight of the day, where survivors will be treated to full body massages, facials and manicures.
A key activity also includes the “Real Men Wear Pink…Taking Care of Others and Yourself” forum. The men’s only forum offer participants an opportunity to talk about health issues. Health columnist Glenn Ellis will serve as a key presenter during the men’s forum.
Praise is the Cure Week concludes with a breast cancer survivor procession and a benefit gospel concert featuring Hezekiah Walker and LFC and The Brockington Ensemble. The October 1 activities will be held at the Mt. Airy Church of God in Christ, 6401 Ogontz Ave.
Since its inception, Praise is the Cure has reached over 50,000 Philadelphia area residents and has raised more than $200,000 to support year round program efforts.
Honorary community members of Praise Is The Cure include National Association of Black Journalists Founder Sandra Long and Vice President of Community Affairs, Independence Blue Cross, Lorina Marshall-Blake. Honorary co-chairs state Sen. Vincent Hughes and actress Sheryl Lee Ralph are also advocates for Praise Is The Cure.
To register for the event, call (215) 635-1025.
Hassan F. Johnson, chief executive officer of ThaTrunk, has developed a savvy mobile application geared toward connecting creative professionals such as musicians, authors and artists to their consumers.
“We give them a better sales channel to distribute content to and sell merchandise,” Johnson says of ThaTrunk’s application.
“There is a great need for creative people to sell their content on the individual level as well as the e-commerce level.”
ThaTrunk uses mobile commerce and geocast technology to help digital creators resonate with their fans and consumers. For example, the company’s mobile application enables musicians to geocast their music live from stage.
“Since we have the platform, I can see our business taking off and really working with large entertainment companies,” says Johnson, whose firm seeks to raise $750,000 in capital.
Johnson, who hails from Austin, Texas, represented one of 14 tech start-up firms who participated in the recently held DreamIt Ventures Demo Day event.
Demo Day offered participating entrepreneurs the chance to pitch their ideas before an audience of angel investors and business executives. The diverse array of start ups ranged from specializing in offering mobile applications for printed coupons to developing a system designed to streamline the supply procurement process for contractors to offering an online platform designed to connect voters with political candidates.
The companies represented bright entrepreneurial talent and included students and alumni from top academic institutions.
Companies who participated in the DreamIt Ventures business accelerator program spent the last three months working out of shared office space in the University City Science Center. The accelerator program provides selected participants with up to $25,000 in seed capital, donated accounting and legal services and mentorship from seasoned entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. This marked the fourth year that DreamIt Ventures held a program in Philadelphia. The initiative was also held in New York over the summer. In the last four years, DreamIt entrepreneurs have raised more than $25 million.
Five of the participating companies were selected in partnership with Comcast Ventures, the venture capital affiliate of Comcast Corporation as part of the Minority Entrepreneur Accelerator Program (MEAP). MEAP was established to address the lack of minorities in the startup community. MEAP is the first investment initiative from the $20 million fund created by the NBCUniversal transaction that is committed to expanding opportunities for minority entrepreneurs. The five startups that participated in MEAP included owners who are African American, Asian, Hispanic and Indian.
According to William Crowder, managing director, MEAP, the five companies were chosen from hundreds of applicants.
“The goals with those companies were no different than the goal that we had with all of other companies. We wanted to give them the same things that we feel are critical for young startups to be successful,” said Crowder.
Crowder noted that similar business accelerator programs are cropping up in cities across the country.
“It’s really critical that we get more minorities into these programs. They need to have these opportunities and more importantly they need to start looking and applying for these opportunities. It’s just such a critical experience for them to have,” Crowder stressed.
Participating MEAP African American-led firms include ThaTrunk; Kwelia, a service that allows property managers to optimize their prices using rental market data and metaLayer, a visual search company that summarizes online data and prioritizes relevant content.
The application process for the next Philadelphia-based DreamIt program opens on May 17, 2012.
For information visit www.dreamitventures.com.
Medical negligence attorney Bernard W. Smalley Sr. has joined Philadelphia’s largest African-American owned law firm.
With offices in Philadelphia and Miramar, Fla., Tucker Law Group, LLC, specializes in civil and commercial litigation and handles individual personal injury cases and employment discrimination matters. Led by attorneys Joe H. Tucker and Yvonne B. Montgomery, TLG is known for representing major companies, colleges and universities in the Philadelphia area.
Smalley, who has become senior counsel to TLG, concentrates his practice in the areas of medical negligence, pharmaceutical liability, defamation, class actions, products liability and other major personal injury matters.
Prior to joining TLG, Smalley practiced law for 27 years with the Philadelphia-based firm of Anapol, Schwartz, Weiss, Cohen, Feldman & Smalley, P.C.
Smalley said he was drawn to TLG for its quality and diverse base of African-American, Asian, Caucasian and Hispanic attorneys.
“There comes a point in your life, where you want to carry out what you talk about,” he said. “One of the things that I’ve been interested in for a long time is diversity. While the large firms can represent people of color, they should also hire people of color and that has been met with mixed results not only at Anapol Schwartz, but also with some of the largest personal injury firms in the city.
“Joining Joe’s firm is an opportunity for me to work with of group of creative and diverse attorneys,” Bernard said. “To be able to handle complex, very detailed cases and to get strong results for our clients, for me to able to do that in a very diverse atmosphere that mirrors what the city of Philadelphia and the region looks like, is very important to me.”
Tucker referred to Smalley as one of country’s preeminent personal injury lawyers.
“His client base cuts across all demographic lines and just further establishes the Tucker Law Group as being the preeminent African American-owned law firm in the city and the state,” Tucker said.
“This is sort of a dream fulfilled for me. The fact that I’ve been able to establish something that Bernie feels good enough and comfortable enough to join, makes me feel proud of what we’re done here at the firm.”
Smalley is the first African American ever elected to serve as president of the Philadelphia Trial Lawyers Association.
He is a member of the Pennsylvania Bar Associations’ House of Delegates, National Bar Association and the Barrister’s Association. Smalley sat as chair of Hearing Committee 1.14 for the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania Disciplinary Board and was a standing member of the Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court’s Evidence Committee.
He frequently lectures on trial techniques before national, state and local trial lawyer and bar associations.
Smalley has received the President’s Award from the Philadelphia Barristers Association, the Soaring Eagle Award from the Minority Caucus of the American Association of Justice (formally ATLA) and the Pursuit of Justice Award from the American Bar Association as well as the 2008 Justice Thurgood Marshall Award of Excellence.
He serves on various boards including the Widener University School of Law Board of Overseers and the board of City Trusts, the Girard College Committee (chairman), The Ellis Trust and the board of the Zoological Society of Philadelphia.
Prior to attending law school, Smalley was the deputy court administrator for Civil Administration for the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.
Smalley received his bachelor’s degree from Temple University in 1971 and his law degree from Widener University School of Law in 1980.
He is married to Jacquelyn Manns Smalley. They have two sons, one daughter-in-law and two grandchildren.
Local group collaborates with Dutch organization to fight youth STD crisis
Philadelphia FIGHT’s Youth Health Empowerment Project is using dance as a way to educate young people about HIV.
Y-HEP is the first to partner with dance4life, a Netherlands-based program aimed at empowering young people around HIV.
The organization joined Victoria’s Secret angel Doutzen Kroes at a press conference to launch dance4life-USA.
“dance4life is effective because it breaks down the inhibitions to learning, helps young people remember the importance of HIV prevention, and is fun,” Kroes said during the press conference held at City Hall.
Kroes encouraged parents to talk to their children about safe sex and condom use.
“We must break the silence and we cannot be afraid to talk to our kids about sex, using condoms, and to answer their questions,” she said.
Y-HEP will take the dance4life program to students at various school and youth organizations throughout Philadelphia where they will encourage young people to take responsibility for their health and decision-making. dance4life Philadelphia has joined 28 countries in offering the global program that provides young people with the skills to join the fight against HIV/AIDS.
“What we have found with dance4life — more than any other program designed to help reach young people transition into adolescence — is that this has been the most successful,” said Jane Shull, executive director, Philadelphia FIGHT.
AIDS Activities Coordinating Office Executive Director Jane Baker hailed the dance4life initiative and said it’s another tool in the arsenal to fight the growing rates of sexually transmitted diseases amongst Philadelphia’s youth.
In April, Philadelphia’s Department of Health launched a campaign to help combat the rise in STDs amid Philadelphia youth. During that launch, Health Commissioner Donald F. Schwarz said more than 19,000 cases of chlamydia were reported in 2010, with approximately 45 percent of those cases occurring in youths between the ages of 10 and 19 years, and 33 percent occurring in young adults ages 20 to 24 years. He also noted that 47 percent of the youth who were diagnosed with HIV at the city’s STD clinic had a prior history of gonorrhea, chlamydia or syphilis.
“Right now we have a public health emergency. This is a crisis. So anything you can do to bring these rates down, to make some impact on the rise of sexually transmitted diseases among young people in Philadelphia, you have to do it. This couldn’t be more timely,” said Baker.
dance4life International Founder Eveline Aendekerk says the organization’s goal is to facilitate a global youth movement of one million agents of change by 2014.
The push to expand the movement comes at a time when half of the new HIV infections are occurring in young people under 25 according to U.N. AIDS.
During the press conference, members of dance4life Philadelphia’s tour team chanted, “Take responsibility for life, let your voice be heard,” while showing off hip dance moves.
The dance4life program has four components, including a heart connection tour that encourages participation through music, drumming, dancing and education; skills4life, a workshop program where participants learn about HIV; and act4life, which encourages involvement in a volunteer project. The fourth component includes celebrate4life, a biannual celebration that is held on the Saturday before World AIDS Day. During the celebration, dance4life participants are connected via satellite where they dance together.
Over the coming months, Y-HEP will work to recruit students and student clubs to participate in the dance4life program, and will stage dance4life interventions in area schools.
Y-HEP is a community-based health and leadership development program for Philadelphia youth.
After 12 years at the helm of Lincoln University, President Ivory V. Nelson, Ph.D., is stepping down.
During an interview with the Tribune, Nelson said he plans to retire by the end of the year. He did not give an actual retirement date.
“For the first time in my life, I don’t have a set of five-year goals in my pocket,” said Nelson, who worked in higher education for 48 years.
“I’ll be leaving a profession that I’ve loved. I’ve been president of four colleges and universities, and Lincoln University is my finest hour.”
Nelson, who is 76, joined Lincoln in 1999, after serving in leadership positions at Central Washington State University, Prairie View A&M University and Texas A&M University. Nelson’s academic career includes teaching graduate and undergraduate chemistry and serving as department head, assistant dean of academic affairs and vice president for research. He has also enjoyed a career in the corporate sector where he was a research chemist for both Union Carbide and American Oil Company.
When Nelson arrived at Lincoln, the institution was $15 million in debt. Nelson is credited with leading the nation’s oldest historically Black university out of debt and spearheading major construction projects that transformed Lincoln’s campus.
“When I came into Lincoln we were having tough times public relations wise, financial wise and perception wise,” said Nelson, who eliminated operating deficits, removed Lincoln from financial aid probation and secured over a quarter of a billion dollars in state funding for capital construction and renovation projects.
“I do believe that with the help of a lot of folks that we have been able to provide a strong message of the academic quality of what Lincoln is all about, provide a strong message of how important Lincoln University is to this commonwealth especially,” Nelson said, noting that 54 percent of Lincoln graduates stay in Pennsylvania.
“During this 12-year period of time, we have strengthened our facilities, we have strengthened our academic programs, we’ve grown our enrollment and we’ve positioned the university to be in the forefront as it moves forward.”
Nelson also steered the institution through a critical time when university officials relinquished majority control of the Barnes Foundation board of directors, which led to the art collection’s controversial move from Lower Merion to Center City.
Since 2005, Lincoln has built a $22 million residence hall, a new cultural center, a $40 million science and technology center, and a newly renovated student union and library.
During Nelson’s tenure, Lincoln’s enrollment has grown from 1,975 in the 1999–2000 school year to 2,210. The institution has also consolidated the number of academic majors from 52 to 38.
For Nelson, one of the most challenging aspects of his tenure at Lincoln is operating in a climate where support for higher education is dwindling.
When he first came to Lincoln, the state supported 34 percent of Lincoln’s budget, compared to the 17 percent for 2011–2012.
“Institutions have to be supported. We need to make sure that we have strong public support — public support in terms of the legislature. When you talk about funding for the university, we also need to have private support,” he said.
“What we tend to forget is without the ability of these institutions to provide the educational opportunities that they do, a certain segment of our populace will suffer and we don’t want that to happen.”
“Perhaps the most difficult thing is to convince everybody that we really need to trend back towards the notion that higher education is public good and not a private good,” Nelson added.
Lincoln officials will highlight the need for more support during the Senate Appropriations Committee hearing held October 13 at 1 p.m. on the university’s campus.
Restaurateur Keven Parker is gearing up for his latest business venture.
Next month, Parker will open the doors of KDP Lifestyle and Luxury Suites — a home store and a boutique hotel on South Street.
Located on the first floor of 1310 South Street, KDP Lifestyle will offer shoppers an array of home décor goods that reflect Parker’s eclectic style.
“The store is going to be a reflection of my lifestyle, a reflection of the things that I like,” says Parker, who has a passion for interior decorating.
The upper-floor luxury suites, which have been appointed by Parker, are outfitted with small kitchens and marble bathrooms. The stylish suites are geared towards guests who seek to stay long-term.
“A boutique hotel gives you the feeling of going to a small boutique shop as opposed to a bed and breakfast that is very structured. When you go to a boutique, you expect a certain sense of style,” he says.
Parker initially set out to launch KDP Lifestyles two years ago, however he felt the concept needed further tweaking.
“I’m at this point because it’s the right time,” says Parker, who is known as the dynamo behind of Ms. Tootsie’s RBL (Restaurant Bar & Lounge) and Simply Delicious Caterers.
After Parker and his mother, Joyce Parker, launched Ms. Tootsie’s 15 years ago, the eatery became known for serving up tasty soul food offerings.
Parker aspires to create a destination by offering guests an opportunity to dine, sleep and shop in the same location.
“It’s really about creating a brand. It’s really about helping people understand that it’s more than a restaurant, it’s more than just a boutique hotel, it’s more than just a store,” says Parker.
“It’s really about creating a destination. When people come to Philadelphia, they want to look for the destination places to go and that’s my ultimate goal. The goal is to sell the entire experience — to eat, drink, sleep and shop.”
An invitation-only grand opening is scheduled for November 3 at KDP Lifestyle.
Parker and his mother were working on launching KDP Lifestyle and publishing a cookbook with her recipes before she passed on July 23.
“I knew that what my mother gave me was powerful. I knew that what my mother gave me, the book of recipes and family techniques was powerful and I knew that people would want it,” says Parker.
“I stand on solid ground because of the foundation that my mother has built. I know that we had a vision as a team and we got to fulfill the vision.”
Parker’s vision goes well beyond the border of South Street. Franchise packets will be available, enabling Ms. Tootsie’s locations to be launched in Atlanta, Ga. and Washington, D.C. He’s also planning to publish his mother’s cookbook and a book highlighting his success as an entrepreneur in 2012.
When Parker opened Ms. Tootsie’s 15 years ago, he encountered many naysayers who claimed that he would not be successful on South Street. However Parker’s strategic investment paid off and he would prove the naysayers wrong. Prior to Ms. Tootsie’s expansion, it was common to see diners waiting outside until they could snag a table. Today Ms. Tootsie’s RBL can accommodate more than 200 people and host more than one function in its various lounges.
Long-term unemployment impairs recovery
The Black unemployment rate has surged to a 27-year high.
The U.S. Labor Department recently reported that Black unemployment rose to 16.7 percent in August, while the rate for whites fell to eight percent.
Black unemployment has risen to its highest level since 1984.
Christian E. Weller, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, says there are varying reasons why high rates of unemployment continue to persist among African Americans.
Weller said the phenomenon of high unemployment spans across all subgroups of African Americans — whether you look at it by gender, age or educational attainment.
One reason has to do with economic impact on sectors that traditionally employed African Americans. For instance, Weller noted that Black men tend to be disproportionately employed in manufacturing, while Black women traditionally work in the areas of teaching and administrative jobs in local governments.
“To some degree this is a story about sectors — the sectors where African Americans have found job opportunities in the past — but those sectors are suffering more than other parts of the economy where African Americans are less represented,” said Weller.
“The other part is that unemployment sort of creates a vicious cycle. We have now had about 10 years of very high long-term unemployment. Once people lost their job, they were out of a job for long periods of time,” he said.
Weller says that when people are out of work for a long period of time, they start falling behind in terms of using their skills and keeping up with the latest technology being used in their fields — making them even less attractive to potential employers.
Algernon Austin, director of the Program on Race, Ethnicity and the Economy, Economy Policy Institute is concerned that government budget cuts could lead to more job loss for African Americans.
“Because the federal government wants to join in and make cuts, we’re going to continue to see shrinking employment in the federal, state and local levels,” Austin said.
“African Americans are disproportionately in the public sector — particularly Blacks with college degrees. I am worried about job loss for the Black middle class going forward.”
Economist Bernard Anderson says that there are both short-term and long-term solutions to the problem of high unemployment for African Americans.
He said the short-term solution is to get the economy growing faster.
“If it’s one thing we know about the variability of employment in the Black community, it is that there is a direct relationship between the rate of growth in Black employment and the rate of growth in the economy as a whole. They will be employed if the economy is growing faster and there is a significant increase in the demand for labor,” said Anderson.
“The long-term solution is for Black workers to become more employable in those industries that are likely to grow fastest,” he said, noting this will require more education and more training.
“There aren’t many jobs available in this economy for people who don’t have a good education.”
According to the Labor Department, the nation’s general unemployment rate is 9.1 percent. The number of long-term unemployed — those jobless for 27 weeks or more — was six million in August and accounted for 42.9 percent of the unemployed. There was zero net increase in jobs during the month of August.
Africa is open for business.
That was the overarching message shared during the African and Caribbean Business Council’s Business Roundtable.
Held at the Penn Museum, the event brought together Philadelphia region business leaders and ambassadors and representatives from six African and Caribbean countries to discuss the theme of driving economic development and building access to the global market.
Stanley Straughter, chairman of the Mayor’s Commission on African and Caribbean Immigrant Affairs launched the roundtable by encouraging businesses to tap into the African marketplace.
“Seven of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world are in Africa. It’s just phenomenal what’s going on in Africa, and unfortunately for some reason the United States just hasn’t caught up to it yet,” said Straughter.
During the four-hour roundtable, ambassadors from Botswana, Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone, Ghana, South Africa and Trinidad and Tobago, gave an overview of their respective countries and potential investment opportunities.
Investment potential exists in the areas of alternative energy, oil, fisheries and sustainable agriculture for many of the countries represented. In South Africa, opportunities exist in the areas of aerospace technologies, automobile and defense and agri-processing.
During the event, David Briel, Executive Director, Center for Direct Investment, Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, addressed how the state assists international trade efforts.
The center will assist 10 companies in a trade mission to South Africa from February 21 to March 2. The mission includes meetings in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town.
Barbara Span, vice president of Western Union, touted the African Diaspora Marketplace competition. Funded by U.S. Aid and Western Union, the business plan competition is geared towards connecting Diaspora entrepreneurs with the country of their origin. This year’s competition focuses on entrepreneurs in three sectors including information and communications technology (ICT), agribusiness and alternative energy. Winners will receive grants of $100,000 to start and grow small and medium sized businesses in 18 African countries. Official details about the competition will be announced later this week.
Founded in 2006, the ACBC promotes the business interests of African and Caribbean entrepreneurs in the Greater Philadelphia area.
The death of KYW Newsradio community affairs reporter Karin Phillips has left a significant void.
Phillips died Tuesday following a brief illness. She was 53 and resided in Mt. Laurel, N.J.
Phillips was known for highlighting community organizations, programs and events that occurred throughout the Philadelphia region.
KYW Reporter Mike DeNardo says their newsroom is still in a state of shock.
“There is a huge void in this newsroom because Karin is not here,” said DeNardo, who worked with her for almost 30 years.
DeNardo would routinely “push Karin’s buttons,” which led to her loud and infectious laugh being heard in the newsroom.
“I knew that if I wanted to get a rise out of her, all I would have to do is make a seemingly politically incorrect comment or play a news sound clip that I knew would set her off,” DeNardo recollected.
“An outsider may think that I was trying to offend her but I was pushing her buttons simply to get a rise out of her, to make her laugh and blow off some steam. That happened every day in our newsroom. It’s quiet now. It’s silent and there’s a void that I don’t know that we’ll ever be able to fill.”
Phillips had been a member of the National Association of Black Journalists and the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists.
PABJ officials issued a statement on behalf of the organization.
“The Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists was deeply saddened to hear of the loss of KYW Newsradio Community Affairs Reporter Karin Phillips, following a brief illness,” said PABJ.
“Karin’s voice was particularly important to the African-American community because she was one of the few voices of color in Philadelphia mainstream radio news. She covered the Philadelphia community with passion. Karin gave a voice to members of the community that would have not had the opportunity to be heard on the airwaves. There is no doubt that Karin’s distinctive presence will be missed.”
Phillips joined the KYW Newsradio team in 1979 as a production assistant. She held many positions throughout the years, including reporter, writer and daytime editor.
Prior to coming to KYW Newsradio, Phillips worked as a reporter for the Burlington County Times. She also served as an anchor and producer for Express Traffic Services.
In addition to working at KYW Newsradio, Phillips was an adjunct professor teaching broadcast journalism at Rutgers University, where she graduated in 1979 with a bachelor’s degree in English and Spanish and a minor in journalism. In 1998, she obtained her master’s degree from Rutgers.
During her undergraduate studies, she was a reporter and editor of the campus newspaper and president of the Spanish Club. She was named Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges, and was honored as one of the 50 finest graduates of Rutgers University-Camden.
She was also a member of the Philadelphia Flying Dragon Boat team, which raises money for the fight against breast cancer. As a member of the team, she helped pack surplus food for distribution to organizations feeding the hungry and prepared meals at the Ronald McDonald House, which provides living quarters for families of children undergoing hospital treatment.
Phillips, who was a Philadelphia native, resided in South Jersey at the time of her death. She was a member of the Christian Bell Choir of Burlington County, which performs in neighborhood churches, senior centers, nursing homes, and for inmates at county prisons and jails.
In 2009, Phillips received the Human Rights Award for Arts and Culture from the Philadelphia Commission on Human Rights. In 2004, she received the Outstanding Community Service award from the Philadelphia Council of Clergy, the largest multicultural religious clergy organization in Philadelphia.
She is survived by her mother, Rose, and a brother.
The funeral will take place at 11 a.m. on Tuesday Sept. 20, 2011 after a 10 a.m. viewing at Christ Baptist Church, 950 Jacksonville Rd. in Burlington, N.J.
Casino celebrates first anniversary, hopes to add 500 jobs to region
SugarHouse Casino is gearing up for a large-scale expansion project.
Casino officials marked the first year anniversary by announcing preliminary plans to significantly expand the gaming operation.
The expansion would include 700 construction jobs and bring an estimated 500 new permanent full and part-time jobs to SugarHouse, bringing the total workforce to 1,500 personnel.
“This will bring our total investment in Philly’s first and only casino to over $500 million,” SugarHouse General Manager Wendy Hamilton said in regards to the expansion project.
“These expansion concepts are essential for realizing the ultimate vision of having SugarHouse serve as a full service gaming and entertainment destination here on the Delaware River Waterfront.”
The expansion plans — which are pending regulatory approval — would more than double SugarHouse’s complex to approximately 250,000 gross square feet. The project calls for an attached seven floor parking garage that allows for more than 500 additional spaces, the expansion of the gaming floor from 51,000 square feet to approximately 90,000 square feet, and a poker room.
The expansion would include space for up to four new waterfront restaurant concepts. The casino’s public river walk will also increase in size to allow for a longer bike path and more landscaped waterfront access. The new construction will also include space for a second-story ballroom, with riverfront views.
Construction on the project is slated to begin in the summer of 2012, with anticipated completion by fall 2013.
When SugarHouse was gearing up to open its doors in September 2010, it faced opposition from community groups who were concerned that the casino would negatively impact their neighborhoods.
City politicians, representatives of community and business groups turned out to mark SugarHouse’s first year anniversary.
Councilman Darrell Clarke, whose district includes an area across from the casino, noted the challenge of bringing SugarHouse to North Delaware Avenue.
“Through it all, there were a special group of people who said we need to have a conversation. They understood that when you are talking about 1,000 jobs, we need to have a conversation,” said Clarke.
“As a result of those discussions, we have the best casino on the East Coast.”
Clarke noted that he hasn’t received any complaints from constituents about the casino.
The press conference also served to highlight SugarHouse’s successes during its first year in operation.
Since it opened, SugarHouse has generated millions of dollars in tax revenue for the city and the state. The revenue includes nearly $53 million in state tax, more than $6 million in local share assessment, approximately $7.7 million for the Economic Development and Tourism Fund and approximately $18 million for the Pennsylvania Race Horse Development Fund.
During the anniversary program, Hamilton presented the Penn Treaty Special Services District with a contribution of $500,000. This brings SugarHouse’s total contribution to SSD to more than $1 million.
The SSD is a municipal authority established in 2010 that provides services, security, planning and maintenance to the Penn Treaty area of Philadelphia, which includes the neighborhoods surrounding the casino — Fishtown, South Kensington, Old Richmond and Northern Liberties.
SDD Chairperson Joseph Raftner says SugarHouse’s contributions have enabled the district fund programs for children, seniors and veterans in their neighborhoods.
The casino was recently named one of this year’s “Best Places to Work” in the eighth annual ranking presented by the Philadelphia Business Journal.
Located at 1001 North Delaware Ave., SugarHouse is one of 10 operating casinos in Pennsylvania.