“We Can’t Come Any Further!” 1969 N Philly Charette

In 1969, there was a severe tensions between the Berean Presbyterian Church, toward Temple University regarding land ownership.  Per Urbanoasis.org, the tensions began around 1955 when Temple University began an aggressive expansion of the area. As the expansion continued, the church’s congregation suffered displacement for the cause of new academic buildings.

Led by, Reverend J. Jerome Cooper, Berean continued to plead with the University to halt the expansions yelling, “We can’t come any further!”

“Some likely saw the minister as a troublemaker, a proverbial thorn in the side of a rapidly growing urban university; others viewed him as a champion of the people, an advocate for those too often ignored by the powerful.”

Due to the building pressure and tension between the university and residents, a charette was put in place in November of 1969 until the disputes could be resolved. However, during this charette, the community leaders still felt their clear points and desire were not understood and unmet.  Therefore in December, they walked out of the meeting in protest, releasing a statement the following day,

“During the two weeks of the Charette it became apparent that Temple University was interested only in continuing their preconceived plans while placating the wrath of the Black community. . . . By last night, it became all too apparent that the University was only willing to negotiate the scraps [of the vacant land]. Of the three moratorium blocks that Temple was willing to discuss for housing, one was bordered by railroad tracks and one was adjacent to a steam generating plant. In the remaining blocks Temple was at no time willing to reconsider its pre-Charette plans, calling for constructing a 14 story building on ten acres of land across the street from two story residential housing. Nor would they reconsider the placement of an equally massive technology building anywhere but adjacent to residential housing.”

With state and federal involvement, the Temple University-Community Agreement of 1970 came into play.

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However, it still took many years for Temple to follow through with their agreement, but in the 1980s, Temple and the community created the North Central Philadelphia Association, “to seek innovative community and economic-development projects for the neighborhood.” To which the response was optimistic,

“People in the community believe that Temple is beginning to listen for the first time in years . . . . There are those of us who remember the 1960s and early ’70s, when Temple was seen as an enemy of the community. . . . Their whole portfolio seemed to have been community removal in regard to Temple expansion. . . . We now find this new administration is taking the initiative to say to us, ‘We’re ready to work with you.’ There is a trust level that is very high at this point.”

I close with a quote from a fellow wordpresser,  “In recent years there has been a growing recognition that educational facilities and programs should be totally enmeshed in the social, economic, and physical vitality of communities. Increasingly society is asking that new schools be planned as community institutions, serving adults as well as children, performing social and cultural as well as education functions. Underlying this philosophy is the understanding that the physical integration of education facilities into the total fabric of the community will result in social, economic, and environmental revitalization of communities for the public benefit, and that if we are to improve education, we must integrate the whole social system rather that just modify the schools. This suggests that educational facility planning must become part of an overall strategy for community development and renewal and that new approaches to coordination of public decision-making and planning procedures must be found.”

 

 

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