William Way receives $2M from city budget

The front of William Way LGBT Community Center
William Way LGBT Community Center

*This story has been updated to include a quote from Sen. Bob Casey.

The William Way LGBT Community Center is one step closer to its renovation and expansion, thanks to a $2 million allocation from Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney’s City FY 2024 operating budget. Funds from the budget will go toward expanding and improving spaces for the center’s 1315 Spruce Street headquarters.

Metcalfe Architecture & Design has designed the new building to include a new 10-story tower while modernizing the center for its Build the Way campaign. New designs include accessibility improvements, additional commercial rental and event space, a new cafe and catering kitchen, and improved spaces for programs such as the Arcila-Adams Trans Resource Center and recovery services.

​​“Building an inclusive, accessible, and LGBTQIA+ friendly city has been a major priority for this administration,” Kenney said in a statement. “Much of the progress we have made in the last eight years can be attributed to longstanding partnerships with life-saving organizations like William Way who work hard to ensure that essential services and resources are available to Philadelphia’s LGBTQIA+ community. We are proud to further invest in this mission and help make an even greater impact in the lives of many — one that will reach beyond this administration.”

Capital Campaign Chair Paul Steinke called Kenney’s support “a fitting coda to his eight years of unwavering support for our community as Mayor.”

In addition to the $2 million allocation, several politicians in Pennsylvania also voiced their support for additional funding. Congressman Brendan Boyle, Sen. Bob Casey and Sen. John Fetterman all recommended the center for Federal Community Project Funding from the Appropriations Committee.

“The William Way Community Center has been a beacon of hope and support for Philadelphia’s LGBTQ+ community for decades,” Boyle said. “It has provided refuge for numerous individuals, as well as a place to find recognition, resources and acceptance. So I’m proud to fight for more funding from Washington for this and other important community centers in my congressional district. By investing in the renovation and expansion of the William Way Community Center, we pave the way for the future generations to come.”

In a statement to PGN, Fetterman said that while the additional funding is not guaranteed or approved yet, his office aims to make it a reality.

“The William Way LGBT Community Center in Philadelphia is a cornerstone of the community and meets the needs of some of the most vulnerable populations in the city through programs focused on the mental health of our gay and transgender communities, seniors and people of color,” Fetterman said. “We’re fighting to provide the center with additional funding so it can continue this critical work for years to come.”

Casey echoed similar sentiments.

“For nearly half a century, the William Way Community Center has connected Philadelphia’s LGBTQ+ community to resources ranging from nutrition to housing to mental health and more,” Casey said in a statement to PGN. “I am advocating for federal funding for the Center so it can grow and continue to provide lifesaving services to the community.”

The Build the Way campaign has also received support from individual donors and regional foundations. Recent grants include $2.5 million from Pennsylvania’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) and $1 million from the William Penn Foundation. An earlier RACP grant of $1 million went toward installing a new HVAC system in the front third of the building. This will be preserved and connected to the building’s new construction, along with interior improvements. Additionally, renovations of the front part of the building are complete and demolition of the back sections are set to begin in October. In this location, the new tower will connect to the front of the building.

“As a board member at WWCC, I believe this project will be transformative for Philly’s LGBTQIA+ community,” said William Way board co-chair and Capital Campaign member Kira Kinsman. “It will sustain our mission well into this century while also creating an institutional home for possibilities that we simply can’t imagine yet, and that sense of a compelling future is what really makes this such a dynamic undertaking.”

William Way Board Co-Chair Sue Gildea said the board is also grateful to community members who advocate for the center. These individuals include Amber Hikes, the deputy executive director for strategy & culture at the ACLU and former director for Philadelphia’s Office of LGBT Affairs; current director of LGBT Affairs Celena Morrison; City Council-At-Large candidate Rue Landau; Sellers Dorsey CEO Marty Sellers; activist Mel Heifetz; PGN publisher Mark Segal; former Gov. Tom Wolf; and current Gov. Josh Shapiro.

“The Center is for the community, and we appreciate that so many from the community have advocated for its growth and renovation,” Gildea said.

Chris Bartlett, the executive director of William Way LGBT Community, said the staff at the center is “so grateful” for Kenney’s support.

“He and Congressman Boyle, Senator Casey and Senator Fetterman recognize the life-saving services William Way offers to the LGBTQIA+ community and the positive impact our Center has on the entire fabric of the city,” Bartlett said. “We’re thrilled to receive these resources to create a renovated and expanded Center that will reflect Philadelphia’s role as the leading city for LGBTQIA+ community and culture in the United States.”

For more information on the Build the Way campaign or to contribute to the William Way LGBT Community Center’s efforts, visit buildtheway.org.

Newsletter Sign-up