Top stories: Openings & Closings

A WARM WELCOME

Groundbreaking senior center open

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The John C. Anderson Apartments, one of the nation’s first LGBT-friendly senior living centers, opened its doors at the beginning of January, marking the

milestone with a community celebration Feb. 24.

JCAA, at 257 S. 13th St., is the nation’s largest-ever LGBT building 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 named for the late gay Philadelphia City Councilman, whose brother, the Rev. Jesse Anderson, spoke at the opening ceremony.

The 56-unit facility is only the third project of its kind in the nation, and the first to be fully funded by government funding and tax credits. About 90 percent of the JCAA residents identify as LGBT, and residents include veterans, transgender people and diversity among gender and race.


PA gets new LGBT centers

The campaign to build the first LGBT center in the Lehigh Valley made major progress towards fruition when it was announced that the location for the planned center would be in Allentown.

The future home of the Bradley-Sullivan LGBT Community Center will be located at 1021 W. Turner St in Allentown. The 7,000-square foot property is owned by the city of Allentown, which plans to sell it to the center for $1.

After a decade in the works, an LGBT center finally opened in Northeast Pennsylvania this year.

The LGBT Center of NEPA opened Feb. 23 in Wilkes-Barre at Fox Ridge Plaza, 1174 Highway 315 at Fog Ridge Plaza. The NEPA Rainbow Alliance-backed center is the first of its kind in the area.

William Way launches sports org.

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The William Way LGBT Community Center created an umbrella organization that aims to unite the numerous LGBT sports organizations throughout the area.

Out Philadelphia Athletic League will help sports groups in attaining facilities and permits and in attending regional, national and international tournaments, as well as stage cross-sport events.

“This grew out of conversations with different teams, groups and leagues about the need to have a bigger sense of community on a more consistent basis,” said OPAL executive committee president Jeff Sotland, the former commissioner of the City of Brotherly Love Softball League. “All the teams have historically come together pretty well every four years for the Gay Games but we have never really had a cohesive, strong relationship amongst all the sports.”

In addition to OPAL serving as a liaison with potential facilities, organizers plan to help groups secure funding and sponsorships.

SAYING GOODBYE

Parker-Spruce fire shutters Westbury

One of Philadelphia’s oldest LGBT bars closed its doors this year.

A small fire broke out on the ninth floor of the Parker-Spruce Hotel in October. No injuries were reported, but the fire prompted L&I to close the hotel and the adjacent Westbury for violations. Building lessee The Wankawala Organization announced it planned to purchase the building and keep it closed indefinitely, prompting Westbury management to confirm it would not reopen.

Westbury operated as an LGBT bar for more than 50 years, first on the west side of Broad before moving to its most recent location at 261 S. 13th St. in 1988.

As of presstime, it was not clear if the building sale went through. According to City Councilman Mark Squilla, Wankawala management told him they intended to partner with a brand-name hotel to rehab and eventually reopen the property and would meet with community leaders to discuss the plan.

QFest cancelled

The city’s annual LGBT film festival didn’t unreel in 2014.

The 20th anniversary of QFest was set for July but, in April, organizers announced it would be postponed. Event founder and artistic director Ray Murray told PGN that his sale of TLA Entertainment Group at the start of the year to Sterling Genesis International complicated festival planning. He said the festival drew on TLA resources for back-end work, like its program guide, mailing list and office space.

At the time, he said he intended to launch a mini LGBT film festival at his new Northern Liberties venture, Warehouse Cinema, in November, but that did not materialize. Murray said QFest would ideally return in July 2015, but no definitive dates have been announced as of presstime.

In September, former QFest official Thom Cardwell launched a new LGBT film festival, qFLIX.     

Notable out leaders step down

A number of local LGBTs vacated their leadership positions this year.

After more than six years at the helm of the city’s health department, openly gay health commissioner Donald Schwarz left his post July 15. Schwarz joined the staff of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, where he now directs the foundation’s Catalyzing Demand for Healthy Places and Practices portfolio.

In July, Rick Bostwick stepped down from the LGBT Police Liaison Committee, on which he served for 12 years, including time as co-chair and chair.

This month, University of the Arts president Sean Buffington announced he would depart the university at the beginning of 2015 to take a position at the Henry Luce Foundation in New York. When he accepted the position in 2008, Buffington was thought to be one of just a handful of out college presidents across the nation, a group that has since grown dramatically.

Effective Dec. 31, out Reading Terminal Market general manager Paul Steinke will step down from the role he held for 13 years. Steinke is gearing up for a campaign for a City Council at-Large seat.