Philadelphia LGBT-Friendly Senior Center Officially Open

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Rainbow confetti flew through the air Monday morning, marking the official opening of the John C. Anderson Apartments, an LGBT-friendly senior-living facility and the nation’s largest publicly funded LGBT building project.

Hundreds packed into a tent on 13th Street to mark the occasion, which has been several years in the making. JCAA is just the third complex of its kind and the only to be supported solely by public funding, with city, state and federal money, as well as tax credits, fueling the $19.5-million project.

The effort was spearheaded by the Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld Fund and Pennrose Properties, and officials from both were on hand to celebrate the opening, which was kicked off by dmhFund president and PGN publisher Mark Segal reading a commendation on the project by President Barack Obama.

The building is home to 56 units of affordable housing for those 62 and over. Many of the residents were in the audience at the opening.

Also on hand were a host of political dignitaries — U.S. Sen. Bob Casey; Congressmembers Bob Brady, Chaka Fattah and Allyson Schwartz; former Gov. Ed Rendell; state Treasurer Rob McCord; state Sens. Michael Stack and Anthony Williams; state Reps. Mike O’Brien and Dwight Evans; Mayor Michael Nutter; City Councilmembers Darrell Clarke, Jim Kenney, Mark Squilla and David Oh; and former Councilmember Frank DiCicco.

Also taking the stage was the Rev. Jesse Anderson, brother of the late gay councilman and namesake of the building.

Anderson noted that his brother had a long history of fighting discrimination — from being the first African-American student-body president at Overbrook High School to battling racial injustice in the Pennsylvania Bar Association, before he entered the political realm and became a driving force behind Philadelphia’s law banning discrimination on sexual orientation.

“John’s spirit says all of God’s children ought to be celebrated, no matter their station in life, race, nationality, religion, political affiliation or sexuality. The question being raised is not who or what you are, but what you have to offer for the betterment of society,” Anderson said. “There is a cadre of Andersons looking down from their resting place along with John saying, ‘You go, Philadelphia. Show your love.’”

Nutter noted that John Anderson was his inspiration to enter politics and said he keeps one of his campaign posters framed in his office.

“If my name is ever printed in the same sentence as the late John C. Anderson, I will know that I did maybe 1 percent of the great things he did for this city,” Nutter said.

Rendell commended Segal’s perseverance in seeing the project to fruition, and said he thinks JCAA will serve as a model throughout the nation.

“I think you will see similar buildings in the LGBT community all over the country,” he said. “Mark set his mind to this and people told him it could never be done, and he wouldn’t take no for an answer.”

From our media partner PGN-The Philadelphia Gay News.

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