Media Advisory: 303 S 51st St

“By-Right” Is Wrong for the Garden Court & Malcolm X Park Community;
West Philly Neighbors Organize Against Unsafe & Unwelcomed Development

Neighbors for Healthy Community Development (NHCD) say developers Callahan Ward are taking advantage of antiquated zoning rules and resisting the concerns and needs of the community.

Since May, 2019, community members from the Garden Court and Malcolm X Park neighborhood of West Philadelphia have organized to create a community organization, Neighbors for Healthy Community Development (NHCD). NHCD was
created to fight the proposed development at 303 S. 51st Street in West Philadelphia. While this lot, under recent zoning and remapping changes, should have been changed to single family residential use, developers Callahan Ward, plan to move forward with their plan of developing this site, to include 33 market rate apartments and commercial space. This lot is situated down a long alley and sits behind 4 residential blocks, including the 300 block of S. 51st and 50th Streets and
Spruce and Pine Streets. (see image below).

Neighbors are strongly opposed to this development as it stands due to safety, parking, overbuild and environmental concerns, in addition to feeling as though they have not been included or consulted in the decisions that will so gravely impact their community.

NHCD was created to address the serious concerns of this development and joined forces with other local organizations that are organized and fighting against unsafe and unaffordable development in West Philadelphia. To date, NHCD has:

  • Collected over 300 signatures on a petition for Callahan Ward to meet and address the community’s needs.
  • Held 2 successful community meetings, each with over 80 people to voice our concerns and develop strategy for action.
  • Received local press for these efforts (see attached)
  • Met with Councilwoman Janine Blackwell to discuss our concerns & lend our support to current remapping efforts that would have prevented this current development.
  • Met with License & Inspection (L&I) officials to discuss the issues of concern, including environmental, congestion & fire department access.
  • Met with Callahan Ward to advocate on behalf of the concerns of the community.

Callahan Ward has resisted the suggestion by the City Planning Department, resisted bills by Councilwoman Blackwell and resisted community consensus about this development. Due to the unresponsiveness by Callahan Ward to meet and address these concerns, we are calling for another community action meeting so that community members can speak out, organize and learn about the current remapping efforts that will benefit our community. Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell will join this discussion to share her disapproval of these current plans and share current plans for remapping and rezoning of West Philadelphia that will meet the needs of the community.

WHEN: Monday, October 21st, 2019

View lot at 303 S. 51st; 6:00-6:30pm

Community Meeting; 6:30-8:00 pm
WHERE: First Corinthian Baptist Church (at the corner of 51st & Pine Streets)

HISTORY: On a block where residents, churchgoers, and visitors to Malcolm X Park already struggle to find parking, neighbors balked at the idea of adding 50-100 new residents without on-site parking. A closer look led to deeper worries: The flag-shaped parcel is encircled by residential homes, with one narrow alley serving as both entrance and exit from 51st Street. In neighborhood meetings, residents expressed fears over fire, soil and water safety because of the site’s very dubious history as an automobile repair and unregulated “chop” shop. Neighbors also began to question why a parcel without any street frontage, on a residential block, surrounded by homes on four sides, would ever be zoned for mixed-use. This incomprehensible CMX2 designation has allowed Callahan Ward Companies to proceed with the 33-unit development “by-right”, with no public hearings. According to Plan Philly, Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell received a bill from the Planning Commission and our Neighborhood Association to remap this parcel to single-family housing in 2018. The bill stalled, and was only reintroduced on October 16 of this year, after Callahan Ward made their purchase. Despite this challenge, residents continue to dispute the rationality and safety of the development, forming Neighbors for Healthy Community Development to demand that Callahan Ward build in accordance with city recommendations and community consensus. For NHCD, a developer who wants to work in this neighborhood must strive to enhance the community rather than exploit it.

Malyka Sankofa, (267) 342-3408, malykasankofa@gmail.com
Becca Runyon, (804) 513-0757, krm.marsh@gmail.com

Join the petition on Change.org

Please join the petition on Change.org to have the Philadelphia Fire Dept and L&I stop the proposed development at 303 S. 51st Street.

Developers Callahan Ward have dismissed the safety concerns of the community. They’ve denied us access to their environmental testing results and they’ve refused to make any concessions to mitigate the negative consequences this project will have on the neighbors. This makes us dependent on the city to protect us, however, despite wide-spread community requests for their action and numerous email/phone calls campaigns and meetings with Fire and L&I, no action has been taken.

Which begs the question, why doesn’t fire safety and environmental health precautions apply to our working class and predominantly black neighborhood?

Next Community Meeting: Monday, October 21st (6-8pm)

Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell has agreed to come speak directly to our community, and make a public statement of support on our behalf… 

On Monday, October 21, we will hold a Community Meeting with Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell and others. The press will be in attendance. We need your bodies and your voices! Public perception matters to Callahan Ward. Please join us 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at First Corinthian Baptist Church (at the corner of 51st & Pine Streets). We also need help in distributing fliers throughout our community. If you can help, please contact WestPhillyNHCD@gmail.com

303 S. 51st Street – Update & Call to Action (week of 10/07/19)

Dear Neighbors & Community,

We hope your week has been off to a great start! We have a couple of action items for you following ongoing meetings. Please see the information below and let us know if you have any questions.


We met with Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, and she has introduced a bill that will remap the area bounded by Cedar Avenue, 52nd Street, Locust Street, and 46th Street. The proposed down-zoning in our area will require developers to seek input from the community if they wish to build up. This bill will come before the Committee on Rules during a Public Hearing on October 16.

 – Please contact members of the Committee on Rules to let them know we support this change.

William K. Greenlee, (215) 686-3446, (215) 686-3447, Bill.Greenlee@phila.gov

Mark Squilla, (215) 686-3458, (215) 686-3459, Mark.Squilla@phila.gov

Cindy Bass, (215) 686-3424, (215) 686-3425, Cindy.Bass@phila.gov

Blondell Reynolds Brown, (215) 686-3438, (215) 686-3439, blondell.reynolds.brown@phila.gov 

Kenyatta Johnson, (215) 686-3412, (215) 686-3413, Kenyatta.Johnson@phila.gov

Bobby Henon (215) 686-3444, (215) 686-344, bobby@bobbyhenon.com

Maria D. Quiñones Sanchez, (215) 686-3448, (215) 686-3449, Maria.Q.Sanchez@phila.gov

Curtis Jones, Jr., (215) 686-3416, (215) 686-3417, Curtis.Jones@phila.gov

Al Taubenberger, (215) 686-3440, (215) 686-3441, Al.Taubenberger@phila.gov

Sample Script:

Dear Councilman/Councilwoman ­_______________,

I am writing in support of proposed Bill 190638. I live at ____________. Our neighborhood will be impacted by a dangerous and detrimental development on a flag lot at 303 S. 51st Street. This development is only possible because of seriously outdated and erroneous zoning. In keeping with the City Planning Commission’s Philadelphia 2035 plan, I ask you to support Councilwoman Blackwell’s current effort to bring West Philly Zoning into the 21st century with Bill 190638. Thank you for your attention.



***If you can, please attend the Public Hearing for the remapping bill (and many others) that will be held at 10 a.m. in Room 400 of City Hall, 1400 John F. Kennedy Blvd. If you are willing and able to address the Committee in support of remapping, please let us know (WestPhillyNHCD@gmail.com) and we will get your name added to the Committee’s speaker list. Visitors must check in at the Northeast entrance where Commerce, Filbert, and Juniper Streets feed into JFK Blvd. Arrive a little early and bring your ID.