Sep 30, 2022 - News

Push for Southwest Philly's Africatown to make strides this fall

A preliminary concept sketch for ACANA's new headquarters

A sketch of ACANA's new headquarters on the 5400 block of Chester Avenue in Southwest Philly. Photo courtesy of Kelly Maiello Architects/Ted Agoos

The first major projects tied to the creation of Philadelphia's Africatown are set to begin.

Why it matters: Africatown, a neighborhood in Southwest Philly that's been in the works for more than 14 years, would give a name to an area long-established as a destination for African immigrants, Voffee Jabateh, CEO of the African Cultural Alliance of North America (ACANA), told Axios.

  • "It's been Africatown since almost 2005. It's just now being branded," he said of the hub of African restaurants and businesses.

Driving the news: ACANA, the nonprofit leading the Africatown effort, is expected to start work on its new headquarters on the 5400 block of Chester Avenue in November.

  • The HQ, costing more than $16 million, will include a community center, banquet hall and health center. The nonprofit will also provide immigration and social services from the building.
  • Plus: ACANA is in the process of acquiring an existing grocery store and land on the same block, which is part of a plan to develop much of the street.

Between the lines: Southwest Philly is home to a vibrant and growing African immigrant community, including those from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria.

Details: Africatown would stretch from around S 47th Street and Baltimore Avenue to S 74th Street and Lindbergh Boulevard, and include the Woodland Avenue business corridor, which is already known as "little Africa."

  • The second phase of the plan for the block is expected to take two years and includes renovating the grocery store, building an office tower, and developing low-income housing.
  • The 5400 block of Chester Avenue is expected to be known as Dolakeh Square, which means "people working together to achieve a shared goal" in the West African language of Mano.
  • ACANA hopes to place an arch identifying Africatown around S 60th Street and Woodland Avenue.

What they're saying: Africatown would be the first of its kind and be a place where those from the African diaspora in the region can identify and connect with each other as a larger community, said Ahsan Nasratullah, president of JNA Capital Inc., a developing partner with ACANA on the project.

  • "The project will become the launching pad to create that community connection," he said.

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Philadelphia.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Philadelphia stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Philadelphia.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more