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Eastern Tower project in Chinatown nears start after Pa. grant award

The funds from Pennsylvania's Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program puts the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corp. on track to close on its financing for the project within 30 days, John Chin, the nonprofit's executive director, said at a news conference Thursday.

Other financing for the $76 million development will be borrowed, secured through tax credits targeting low-income neighborhoods, or obtained through the federal EB-5 program, which offers U.S. visas to overseas citizens who invest large sums into job-creating projects here, Chin said.

Plans for the Eastern Tower project, at the site of a formerly state-owned lot at the northwest corner of 10th and Vine Streets, call for 150 rental units in a 20-story tower; almost 50,000 square feet of retail, office, and community space; and a preschool.

"This will be Chinatown's first true community center," Chin said.

The state grant is the latest to be awarded from the RACP funding scheme, which supports projects deemed able to make a big impact on local economic development.

Other recent awards have gone to the redevelopment of the Gallery at Market East shopping mall in Center City and the Rail Park planned along vacant tracks north of the city's core. (Another phase of the park project would run along the old Reading Viaduct.)

The Chinatown Development Corp. secured the land where the Eastern Tower is planned from the state in 2008, but it has taken years to assemble funds for the project. Crews are now standing by to begin work on the 26-month construction effort, Chin said.

At Thursday's news conference, Wolf said that employment from the project will be a plus for the state and local economy, and that the tower itself will help invigorate a part of central Philadelphia where development has lagged.

"This is going to play a continuing part in the redevelopment of downtown Philadelphia," the governor said.