I Wanna Know

PW exposes the tricks, scams and truth about the powers that be.

By Sammy Mack
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Jan. 14, 2004

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Q: A few months back I saw in your Heroes and Goats section that M. Night Shyamalan had donated $1.5 million to the neighborhood in Philadelphia where The Sixth Sense was shot. This happens to be my neighborhood. Where did that money go? What organization did he give it to? And what do they plan to do with it?

A: "It's going to go toward housing development," says Pastor Steven Avinger of the Greater St. Matthew Baptist Church at 23rd and Fitzwater. The church was one of the filming locations for Shyamalan's directorial debut. Late last September, some four years after the film's release, the M. Night Shyamalan Foundation announced the director would dedicate the money to the neighborhood's revitalization. Avinger, who's also president of the Greater St. Matthew Community Development Corporation, says the plan is to create 50 to 60 new and refurbished homes in the immediate area. He estimates the project will cost about $9 million. Through the Neighborhood Transformation Initiative, founded to combat blight and rebuild neighborhoods, the city has (almost) matched Shyamalan's gift with an additional $1.2 million. "The goal of this project is to support the rehab of vacant land and vacant structures," says Catherine Califano, deputy secretary for the Office of Housing. The city is working closely with Greater St. Matthew to acquire neighboring property to build and refurbish homes. The primary objective is to create affordable housing for residents who are tired of renting and looking to buy. And while Shyamalan's donation is a big step toward the total sum needed, his involvement hasn't been limited to signing a check and leaving the church to work out the details. "We've been in constant contact with the foundation," says Avinger. A representative for the director has been present for every aspect of the project thus far. The revitalization of the neighborhood has really become a community affair. Everything from handling real estate to choosing an architect has involved the foundation and the church, among others. Avinger and his organization are also planning to apply for state funds to finance part of the $9 million project. The gift from Shyamalan "was just a seed," says Avinger.

What do you wanna know? Send queries and complaints to Sammy Mack at smack@philadelphiaweekly.com

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