By Leslie E. John, partner at Ballard Spahr LLP, and president of the Philadelphia Bar Foundation.
We have achieved an important milestone in the Equal Justice Center (EJC) project. The Philadelphia Bar Foundation has secured commitments from many of the City’s leading civil legal aid agencies and social-service nonprofits to become founding Member Tenants.
In addition to the Philadelphia Bar Foundation, Member Tenants in the EJC include the Center for Advocacy for the Rights and Interests of the Elderly, Community Legal Services, Consumer Bankruptcy Assistance Project, Court Appointed Special Advocates of Philadelphia, Good Shepherd Mediation Program, Pennsylvania American Civil Liberties Union, Pennsylvania Health Law Project, Philadelphia Legal Assistance, Regional Housing Legal Services, SeniorLAW Center, and Women’s Law Project. Additional agencies may have an affiliation with the EJC in the future. We are pleased to have this outstanding group of organizations joining the EJC.
For clients of our Member Tenants, the ability to address their interlocking issues at one location will be life-changing. The EJC will increase access to information and legal aid resources by simplifying the task of finding free or low-cost legal services for all members of the community. We expect that tens of thousands of people will be served through the work of Member Tenants.
In addition, the EJC will make it easier for Member Tenants to collaborate, helping to position Philadelphia as a leader in the national movement to leverage technology to improve the civil legal justice system and address the unmet legal needs that contribute to the cycle of intergenerational poverty. The project also will raise the visibility of access to justice issues.
The EJC will enable the City’s legal aid system to sustain and improve its operations and enhance its ability to meet client needs. Member Tenants’ operational costs will be reduced by as much as 20 percent through group purchasing, shared infrastructure, and shared back office operations. These savings may then be allocated to staffing, programs, and client services.
The EJC will be built at 800-30 Vine Street in Philadelphia and will be a permanent and purpose-built location for the City’s legal aid community to call home. The EJC is just one component of the complex 800-30 Vine Street site. The development also will include market-rate and affordable senior housing, a community park, and a hotel. Construction will begin later this year, and the EJC is set to open in 2022.
The Philadelphia Bar Foundation has provided support to Member Tenant organizations for many years through grantmaking, training programs, fellowships, and assistance with technical and operational issues. Along with others in the Philadelphia legal aid community, our Member Tenants have been collaborating for more than 40 years through the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Delivery of Legal Services Committee to develop innovative ideas for the civil legal needs of the City’s most vulnerable citizens. Collaboration through the EJC will take the collective work of these organizations to a new level.
I would like to thank our developer, Pennrose PHL, LLC and, our architects at WRT for their continued partnership and for all that they have invested to get us to this point in the project.
I hope that you will join us in this effort to change the face of legal aid in Philadelphia. The EJC depends on support from those who care about transforming the way the City will provide civil legal aid services to those in need. Our capital campaign plans to raise $50 million to support construction and EJC programs.
I’d also like to thank you for your support of the EJC thus far. I look forward to sharing our continued progress with you throughout the year.