EJC Heading Towards Groundbreaking

  • Leslie John headshot

By Leslie E. John, partner at Ballard Spahr LLP, and president of the Philadelphia Bar Foundation.

The Philadelphia Bar Foundation is approaching a significant milestone on the Equal Justice Center (EJC) project: financial closing and groundbreaking in 2019. 

The outpouring of interest from our local community and across the United States for this project has been inspiring. Following coverage from the media including WHYY, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and The Legal Intelligencer, we have received inquiries from other legal aid communities across the country about the replicability of this center. As David Cohen, Leslie Anne Miller and Bob Heim wrote in a recent Op-Ed, the time is now for Philadelphia to have a one-stop shop for legal services.

Thirteen agencies will be tenants in the building located on Race Street between 8th and 9th Streets. The EJC will co-locate some of the largest nonprofits in Philadelphia that provide free or low-cost legal and social services to our most underserved populations. Combined, they will serve more than 30,000 clients (individuals and families) annually, and tens of thousands more will benefit from their impact litigation and advocacy.  

The project budget is designed so that tenant rent is fixed, offices are fully furnished and move-in ready, and two floors of state-of-the-art amenity space is available to tenants. Along with our $50 million Capital Campaign, our funding sources include New Markets Tax Credit Equity, Credit-Enhanced Debt, and Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) funds. 

In addition to David Cohen, Leslie Anne Miller, Bob Heim, our Campaign leadership includes Kenneth Frazier, Edward Chacker, Deborah Willig, and Debbie Gross.  They are joined by other influential legal and business professionals who are early supporters, such as Joseph Kohn, Richard Berkman, and Lisa Kabnick, and the firms of Saltz Mongeluzzi Barrett & Bendesky, Cohen, Placitella & Roth, and Kohn Swift & Graf, in helping us to bring the EJC to fruition. 

The project will secure a total of $8 million in philanthropy by October 2019 for financial closing on the core and shell construction of the building. The campaign will then raise an additional $12 million for a 2020 financial closing for tenant improvement costs. Moving beyond the second closing, we will develop operational and systematic programs to advance the mission of the EJC and ensure the shared nonprofit center’s sustainability.

By offering multiple client-centered services in a centralized location – a one-stop shop – the EJC will permanently transform the capacity of the city’s legal aid system to better respond to the civil legal needs of Philadelphians. A shared physical location will create operational efficiencies and collaborative program opportunities, freeing up much-needed resources for direct client services.  

Philadelphia’s legal aid community is renowned for its collaborative efforts and co-location will ensure continued and closer partnerships. The EJC will allow tenant organizations to implement more client-centered best practices to deliver better, more efficient, and more effective legal services to families who need housing, food, education, and healthcare.

For more information on the Equal Justice Center project’s development, please contact Jessica Hilburn-Holmes, Executive Director of the Philadelphia Bar Foundation or visit www.philaequaljusticecenter.org where you may easily donate to the project online. Contact Laura Powers at the Bar Foundation for information on multi-year pledge gifts and naming opportunities in the building.

I want to thank the Philadelphia legal and business community for your support of this important project. The Philadelphia Equal Justice Center defines innovation in legal aid, and we are excited to have you as a part of the project's future.