Senior Project Manager, Heidi Segall Levy, first got involved with Zion Baptist Church in 2018, when Zion applied to be one of three Philadelphia congregations participating in the Sacred Places/Civic Spaces initiative, a design challenge supported by the William Penn Foundation and developed through a partnership between the Community Design Collaborative and Partners for Sacred Places. The initiative was created to re-envision underutilized purpose-built religious properties as community hubs. As Director of Design Services with the Collaborative at the time, Heidi helped to create the initiative which provided pro-bono conceptual design services to the three selected congregations.
Upon selection for the design challenge, Zion embarked in a process that resulted in a community-driven design for the renovation of their shuttered Annex building located directly across Broad Street from their church building. During his 38-year tenure at Zion, Reverend Leon Sullivan established the Annex building as a place to house youth and adult programs intended to empower North Philadelphians to overcome racial and socioeconomic barriers and to create opportunities for wealth in the local community. The Annex continued to serve the community until shuttered approximately 8 years ago.
With the closing, Mike Major, an Assistant Pastor at Zion and a direct beneficiary of the inspiring work of Rev. Sullivan, founded Called to Serve Community Development Corporation to tackle the social challenges in the Nicetown-Tioga neighborhood. Since 2014, the organization has been dedicated to supporting endeavors that break intergenerational poverty, including educational and economic programs within the community and Mike envisioned the revitalization of the Annex building to assist with that work. So, through the SP/CS initiative, and with input from the local community, Zion established program goals for the Annex revitalization project which included creating opportunities for health and wellness, fresh food access, banquet and gathering space, STEAM education, workforce development, and entrepreneurship programs.
After the conceptual design was completed, Heidi continued to work with Zion and their community partner, Called to Serve CDC, to advance the creation of the Reverend Leon H. Sullivan Community Impact Center. With Heidi’s assistance, the partners secured funding from the William Penn Foundation to support the predevelopment services required to move the project forward. These included a development plan and a fundraising feasibility study.
Heidi supported Zion and Called To Serve with the RFP process to engage a real estate development consultant as well as a fundraising consultant. She created the RFPs, reviewed and evaluated the responses, assisted with interviews, and helped to procure the consultants – Mosaic Development Partners and Schultz & Williams.
In her position at Watchdog, Heidi has continued to provide advisory services to Zion and Called To Serve through predevelopment, including the writing of multiple grant applications, resulting in over $3M in capital support so far. With support from both public and private sources and commitments for a fully tenanted building in place, the project has advanced quickly into development with construction slated to begin in 2023.
When complete, the Sullivan Community Impact Center will honor Rev. Leon Sullivan’s legacy by advancing a vision of redevelopment that is focused on growth from within – a vision designed by and benefitting current residents rather than progress that leads to displacement and gentrification.
Heidi, along with our entire team at Watchdog, is honored to be part of this impactful project and to continue supporting Zion and Called To Serve in the effort to secure the full funding needed to realize this vision. For more information about the project, please visit Called to Serve CDC.