President Englert's introductory remarks: town hall

I want to welcome everyone to Temple University tonight. You honor us by your presence.
We have a number of different groups present and I’m sure a range of ideas.  
I’ve heard your requests for more specific information about the project; the purpose of this meeting is to respond to that request by providing detailed information and then giving you an opportunity to make comments and ask questions.
This is a chance for us all to engage in a thoughtful dialogue.
To begin our dialogue, I would like to address three questions.
  1. Why a multipurpose facility?
  2. What other initiatives are we currently engaged in to benefit our neighbors?
  3. How can Temple University do better for our neighbors?
The first question is, “Why is Temple proposing a multipurpose facility?”
Let me share with you just some of the rationale behind the proposed facility as well as some of the potential benefits.
It makes sense financially. While we have valued our leasing arrangement at Lincoln Financial Field, it has become very apparent that any future long-term lease will be much more expensive than we can afford. 
Building and owning our own facility means substantial savings over leasing the Linc.  
This translates into more dollars for investment for other purposes.  
In addition, if we build our own venue, Temple would have fixed costs allowing us to more strategically budget for the future.
And an on-campus facility would allow us to build equity in our own facility rather than contribute to someone else’s stadium. 
The facility also permits us to provide on-campus, game-day experiences for students and other members of the Temple family and neighbors. 
These experiences build greater spirit, pride and allegiance to the university.
Greater engagement with our key constituencies means they are more likely to support Temple over their lifetimes, including through fundraising to make a college education more affordable for future students.
Such a facility allows us to bring people on campus, especially the general public, alumni and prospective students and their families to see firsthand the excellence of our faculty, our students and North Philadelphia.
Getting people on campus is central to our strategy to recruit future students and faculty and enhance our stature and ability to fulfill our mission to educate, conduct research and better serve our neighbors and the broader community.
Student and faculty teaching and learning will be enhanced.  
Space within and adjacent to the proposed facility will be allocated for classroom learning as well as for research. We anticipate hundreds of students and faculty will use the space on a regular basis.  
These spaces will be paid for by the dollars that we would otherwise be paying to lease the Linc and by dollars we can attract through fundraising for the facility.
The proposed facility helps Temple to get better national exposure for our university and to compete more effectively with our peer institutions, the majority of which have football programs and on-campus stadiums.
The facility will provide opportunities for new and diverse retail partners. Substantial retail space will be available as part of the facility along North Broad Street to attract new businesses to North Philadelphia to serve the area neighborhoods and the university community.
Since word of the proposed facility and potentially available retail space became public, the university has already had inquiries from retailers that would be very desirable and attractive.
The construction and operation of the facility, including the retail space, will create jobs. Hundreds of construction jobs will be created in the construction phase of the project and a minimum of a hundred more full- and part-time positions will be filled for retail, game-day and stadium operations. 
The facility would be the linchpin for a special services district.  
The creation of a special services district means that the City of Philadelphia would pick up trash twice a week in our neighborhoods, instead of the current once-a-week pick up.
There would be enhanced and expanded police coverage throughout the adjacent neighborhoods. The district’s employees would enhance the clean up and quality of life for everyone in the district. 
This special services district would be run by a community board and funded with contributions from the university and other partners.
Importantly, there would be no tax or fees charged to residents in the district.  
This project offers all of us an opportunity. 
The multipurpose facility—if done right—can have benefits to both the community and the university. Our goal is to continue to engage and listen to our neighbors to understand your concerns and how best to address them. 
Dispelling rumors
Let me be clear on a few points:
  • No one will lose their property or homes if the project moves forward. The facility will be located on Temple land. However, 15th Street will be closed at Norris for half a block but open on the Montgomery side for vehicle traffic into the facility.  
  • The facility will include a stadium to host no more than seven college football games a year.
  • There are no plans for any concerts or similar events. 
  • However, we do think it could be a venue for an annual public league championship football game or play host to other appropriate community activities, such as neighborhood youth camps. 
  • The consultation process regarding the proposed facility continues. We will continue to listen and to work with our neighbors; to adjust our plans accordingly; to go through the intensive and comprehensive City Planning Commission and City Council processes.  
To answer the second question, let me list five initiatives that we’re engaged in along with the multipurpose facility project.
  1. Temple University, through our College of Education, is planning what we call the Alpha Center, to be constructed on Temple University property at the northwest corner of 13th and Diamond streets. The center will provide critical early learning, mental health, dental and job training resources for the North Philadelphia community, as well as research and training opportunities for students and faculty. And it will include an early childhood learning center with capacity reserved for the community.
  2. The Laborers’ Union training facility near Broad and Master streets is still in the works and progressing. Through collaboration with Temple, the Laborers, for the first time, will make training opportunities available in North Philadelphia. That’s the pathway to good jobs.
  3. We are in the final stages of mounting a comprehensive workforce development initiative for North Philadelphia. By building on the initiatives Temple currently offers, we foresee this as a hub for facilitating job training and employment for all North Philadelphians. We will have more details on this vital facility later this spring.
  4. We are prepared to make a substantial investment in the Amos Recreation Center. Let me be clear, the center will not be adversely affected by the proposed multipurpose facility.  In fact, it will be enhanced with a commitment from Temple.
  5. Temple’s new Library is scheduled for completion in early 2019. Our local community members will have access to this state-of-the-art facility in much the same way you’ve been able to use Paley Library.
These initiatives are in addition to the more than 300 community programs and the vast array of medical, dental, public health, educational, legal and artistic benefits and scholarships we regularly provide to our neighbors.
The third and final question is: In what areas do I think we at Temple University need to do better for our neighbors?
Outside of brick and mortar buildings and facilities and the initiatives I just noted, we can do more for our neighbors and for our North Philadelphia community, and it starts with trust and listening.
If I’ve learned anything during these many months of conversations it is this: I understand that we need to do a better job of listening to our neighbors and in acknowledging their unique experiences.
  • We need to have better communication with our neighbors.
  • We have to make sure that we don’t make promises we can’t keep.
  • Improved relations between the university and our neighbors must be built on trust.  
I have been at Temple for 42 years. Like you, I have seen many changes on campus and in the surrounding neighborhoods.
Some change has been due to a large influx of Temple students living in buildings renovated by developers. 
Many other changes are due to factors beyond the control of any of us, including major demographic and other shifts occurring throughout our region.  
Neighbors have moved, property values are rising, and the character of the community has been altered. 
We get it. We recognize that changes have been substantial, and not always in a positive way for many in the community.
We also recognize that the sources of many of these frustrations lie well beyond this proposed project. 
My commitment is to find ways in which our project can serve to benefit our neighbors in the face of these larger trends.
I want to see a multipurpose facility that’s good for both Temple and our neighbors. 
Going forward we need to have ongoing, regularly scheduled meetings with community members, where there can be real dialogue.
Vice President Bill Bergman, who is one of North Philadelphia’s strongest advocates within the university, will serve as our liaison for future dialogue between our neighbors and Temple.
There will be continuing dialogue. 
Ultimately, this project and all of our other initiatives are about opportunity and partnership.  
My pledge to you is that I will use my presidency to ensure that we put practices into place that will continue for generations to come and that we see this as a turning point for both North Central Philadelphia and for Temple.
As a sign of our commitment, we are prepared to enter into a signed community benefits agreement documenting our obligations.
There may be disagreements about aspects of this project. But I’m optimistic.
I think that the vast majority of people here tonight have a common goal: to see North Central Philadelphia and Temple University thrive in the years ahead.
We are tied together. I’m confident that together we will find ways to benefit all of us.