Located at South Broad and Ellsworth Streets in South Philadelphia on the site of a former vacant lot next to the National Shrine of Saint Rita of Cascia, Saint Rita Place & Cascia Center is a five-story mixed-use building combining 46 one-bedroom apartments for income-qualified senior citizens 62 and older with the 7,500 square foot Cascia Center on the ground floor. The Cascia Center is operated by the Saint Rita of Cascia Shrine, also located on the site, and serves as a gathering place for pilgrims to the site before they visit the shrine in the adjacent Saint Rita of Cascia Church. The center is also a place for reconciliation – where those with grievances and disagreements can come together and hopefully find common ground and understanding.
The Center also consists of offices, conference rooms, a kitchen, and facilities to serve the needs of individuals and groups who come as religious pilgrims to the National Shrine of Saint Rita of Cascia. The Augustinian Friars of the Province of Saint Thomas of Villanova provide services to individuals and families affected by violence who are in need of healing. Cecil Baker + Partners became involved in this project after working with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia on another affordable housing project in the city’s Kensington section a few years prior. This project is significant because it is located in an area of Philadelphia that is quickly gentrifying, making the affordable housing aspect of this even more important due to these senior citizens being priced out of the neighborhood that – for many – has been home for their entire lives. The new construction building was designed by Cecil Baker + Partners and complements the façade of the Saint Rita of Cascia Church, adjacent to the south side of the building.
The design was inspired by the building’s S. Philadelphia location. The building was made to provide a connection to the adjacent 20th century limestone church and the red brick rowhouse neighborhood. These 2 materials come together in a structure that is connected to the neighborhood it inhabits.
Saint Rita Place & The Cascia Center is much more than an affordable housing development. It also serves as a gathering place for neighbors to come together and work out differences. In a world where there is no shortage of negative news and crime, places like these are integral and necessary.
Because this project is funded with low income housing tax credits, it is very energy efficient. There are two goals there – the environmental benefit and also the desire to keep residents utility bills as low as possible. Each floor contains a community room for residents to gather & a food pantry.