The African Center to begin first phase of construction with $23 million in public-private funds

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Construction is slated to begin on the much anticipated African Center on 55th St. and Chester Ave. With the support of a recent infusion of $23 million in public-private funds, it will be the first building constructed in Africatown, which has boasted a wide array of African-owned restaurants and businesses on the main commercial corridors of Southwest for years.

Construction at the site, which used to be a dry cleaner, will be the first phase of development in a threefold project known as Dolakeh Square, a West African term that roughly translates to “people rising together” in English. The African Cultural Alliance of North America (ACANA), a local nonprofit that has spearheaded the vision for Africatown, will own and operate the new mixed-use space.

Voffee Jabateh, ACANA’s founder, said in a WHYY article that the concept of Africatown comes from another thriving immigrant community across the Schuylkill River – Chinatown. Jabateh has partnered with Ahsan Nasratullah, the financial architect behind the Crane Community Center, to solidify the relationship of solidarity between the two cultural hubs.

Plans for the three-story building include a full-service restaurant, additional retail and office space, as well as ACANA’s headquarters where the community will be able to access immigration services. In the empty lot behind the site, there are plans for a community center which will include a daycare and performance venue.

We will continue to update residents about the coming phases of Dolakeh Square as developments progress.

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