Subject: 2021 RACP Grant Application – Support Letter for A World So Special, Inc., Ref: Web Application Id: 8688783 / Single Application ID: 202103309309
Dear Honorable Governor Tom Wolf:
I am writing this letter of support for Mr. Ola Solanke’s latest revitalization work in Chester, Delaware County. As a longtime supporter of Mr. Ola Solanke’s previous Award-winning establishment, The Arts Garage, in Francisville’s - Art Museum section of North Philadelphia, I have witnessed first-hand his ability to build bridges, collaborate & network with others for the revitalization of a once-moribund, Francisville, a neighborhood with a disproportionate number of residents that depend largely on public assistance. Today, a decade following Mr. Solanke’s contributions, Francisville has become the hottest real-estate market North of Philadelphia City Hall (Center City). An effort that signaled the return of the METS, Divine Lorraine Hotel, Jon Bon Jovie (JBJ) Soul Home, ALDI, among others, back to North Broad Street, and helped create a self-contained walk-able community; a place to live, work, play, & shop. This initiative continues to harness & unite available resources into a common vision & direction for a more promising future for Francisville. So I am excited to know that Mr. Solanke has embarked on yet another neighborhood revitalization effort for the City of Chester, a neighboring City that many have pretty much written off.
When The Arts Garage opened its doors in 2002 in the Francisville – Art Museum neighborhood; the venue sought to create an accessible & supportive arts community for emerging and budding artists and a place where art dealers, retailers, and theater, film, & performance artists can make themselves accessible & available to the region's burgeoning tourism market. The venue quickly became a highly sought-after event venue for local, regional, national, & international artists, curators, & professional endeavors. The programming had a monthly draw of 3,000 plus unique visitors to this once-moribund neighborhood and is driven mainly by –entrepreneur-artists and professionals, 20, 30, and 40 years of age, who desired a venue in which they had a majority of control over the final environment of their work. Most artists seek an environment that is truly less restrictive and more permissive for their artistic production.
In May of 2005, the Neighborhood Transformation Initiative (NTI) officially recognized the hard work and commitment of citizens to the City of Philadelphia's revitalization efforts so much that the then Mayor, John F. Street, honored Mr. Ola Solanke, the proprietor, as an NTI Ambassador. Other civic, state, municipal, and business commendations and honors have since followed, including the City of Philadelphia's 5th Councilmanic District 2011 Commendation Award, Pennsylvania House of Representative 193rd District 2011 Commendation Award, Philadelphia Creative Connectors 2011 Award, and of recent, admission into the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses, Philadelphia's 1st Cohort Program. Also, the 2020 RACP Grant $1MM Award by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
We are grateful for the $1MM support your admirable office awarded Mr. Solanke’s project in the 2020 RACP Round. The Commonwealth made this commitment to the project based on the opportunity to further assist in improving economic outcomes for moribund neighborhoods, bringing much-needed business services and resources, new jobs, and breathing life into a much-overlooked area burgeoning with opportunities.
Mr. Solanke is now applying for an additional $1,000,000 to make up for the un-awarded $800,000 of his 2020 RACP round application plus construction cost increase of $200,000, for a total of $1,000,000 of additional RACP funding from the 2021 RACP round. It is understood that this consideration is much needed to address the rising costs of Steel and the developer's shift from using legacy energy to deciding on the use of green energy to bring the project to fruition and with LEED Certification. LEED should be achievable but will add soft costs to the project, including the need for a Commissioning Agent and the expense of compiling and certifying LEED efforts.
This project already has brewery/restaurant tenants and has signed up a Comedy/Sports Club, and prospecting an IT firm. There are also plans for retail, a business resource center, a trade school, a banquet hall, and an entertainment venue. I am particularly excited about the inclusion of The Arts Garage concepts, Mr. Solanke’s signature business offers a place for artists to showcase their creative talents. The development will create jobs, provide local trade skills for area youth, offer a venue for weddings and other gatherings, entertainment, and shopping which will boost Chester's tax base and further encourage development in housing options and more.
If I can be of further assistance, please do not hesitate to call me; I can be reached at (xxx) xxx-xxxx.