Topping-Out Ceremony

In just three weeks, the frame of our new building is up! On Friday, June 1st, Cristo Rey Philadelphia Clemens Construction, Pride Enterprises, and campaign supporters gathered for the Topping-Out Ceremony – an old construction tradition to celebrate the milestone of placing the final beam. 

The tradition is that everyone signs the painted white beam before it goes up to be placed, typically, at the highest point of the building. On one end of the beam is a Christmas Tree and on the other end is an American Flag. The tree symbolizes growth and good luck by giving back to the forest. Legend has it that this tradition dates back to pre-Dark Age Scandinavian cultures who placed a tree on top of a new building to fend off evil spirits for cutting down the forests for lumber. 

John McConnell, Cristo Rey Philadelphia Founder and President, spoke, as well as Jim Smith, Clemens Construction Site Supervisor. Watch the video below to hear what they had to say about this significant milestone for the project. 

Construction "Steels" the Show

The new addition makes headway as the structural steel goes up! The structural steel is the skeleton of the building that sits upon the footings in the ground. First, the columns or vertical beams are set to make up the frame, and then the horizontal beams are set in place to complete the framing. In addition, cables are attached to the frame so that the building is set straight up and down and the beams are square to one another. Once the beams are set and bolted, the metal decking is installed to form the floor and roof of our soon to be gym and classrooms.  

New to the Neighborhood

Nicetown Boys and Girls Club, Black and Nobel bookstore, and Tioga United: these are just a few places in the Tioga Neighborhood that strive to give back to their community -- a community  just two miles south from our current location where you will find our new campus. Cristo Rey Philadelphia is looking forward to opening our new school doors in Tioga. Verna Brown-Tyner, President of Tioga United & Chief of Staff for Councilman Greenlee, says, “The community is very welcoming with open arms; they are excited for and interested in the Cristo Rey school campus and what it holds for the future.”

Tioga became part of Philadelphia city limits in the mid 1850s. During World War II, the neighborhood experienced an industrial boom and peaked economically in the 1950s (see this post for more history on the new campus). Soon after, Tioga fell victim to “white flight” during the years of the Civil Rights Movement. Unfortunately, the migration left buildings and businesses abandoned. Today, although Tioga still faces its challenges, it is a vibrant and close-knit community.

“The Tioga people are very friendly and open to love. We try to promote as much peace as possible,” notes Brown-Tyner. “When I first moved here 40 years ago, I thought I died and went to heaven. We are trying to get that same feeling back and we believe we’re heading in that direction.”

Cristo Rey hopes to help bring back "that feeling" to Tioga.

At the new school campus, we will offer spaces and programing to support adult education, financial literacy, physical fitness, and other community needs. In addition, our admissions office is working with Tioga United to increase the enrollment of students from the area. “I think that Cristo Rey will help build our youth and future by providing exceptional education and a beautiful building,” Brown-Tyner adds. Together, Cristo Rey Philadelphia and the Tioga Community hope to advance growth and development of the neighborhood.

Source: PlanPhilly

"New Ideas Must Use Old Buildings" - Jane Jacobs

We are thrilled to be moving to a site full of history, which is why we are committed to maintain the historical integrity of the old factory. Our team has been working closely with architects at Blackney Hayes and builders at Clemens Construction to find new ways to use old materials from the original factory across the campus. Salvaged timber beams and wood floor boards will be reused for flooring and accent walls throughout the space, as well as for window sills and staircases. But wood is not the only material we’re reclaiming.

In the midst of ongoing construction, the team found cobblestones from an old road that intersected the site. We’re planning to incorporate these cobblestones into the outdoor plaza designs. We’re also reclaiming bricks from the chimney and walls of the factory that have been demolished. As construction progresses, no doubt new ideas will arise. Not only is reusing material “greener,” but it tells a story of history— the history of the Tioga neighborhood that will be remembered as we walk the hallways at 1717 W. Allegheny Ave. 

A Ride Down Memory Lane

In the 1920s, 1705 W. Allegheny Ave. was a lively and operating tricycle factory owned by A. Mecky Company. Today, we are bringing this factory back to life! In addition to 50,000 sq. ft. of new building, our campus will restore 50,000 sq. ft. of the old tricycle factory. Excitingly, this factory has some fun Philly history, so we decided to take a "ride" down memory lane and find out more!

August Mecky was born in Germany in 1853, and according to the 1900 US Census, came to the United States in 1871. He worked several jobs before establishing his tricycle company, A. Mecky Co., in 1883. Mecky bought the property at 1705 W. Allegheny Ave. in 1897 and the factory was built in 1910 with a 3-story rooftop addition completed six years later. However, Mecky died in 1906, and the success of A. Mecky Co. continued under the leadership of August Mecky’s son-in-law, Richard G. Ledig.

Ledig was both the President and inventor for A. Mecky Co.; he patented many products during his lifetime that opened manufacturing to a wide array of children’s vehicles including “baby buggies,” pedal cars, scooters, toddler bicycles and automobiles. Ledig even created a very successful toaster, known as the ‘Twin Bowl Triple Purpose’ toaster. However, the most popular product was the Velo-King Velocipede Tricycles. The name Velo-King was registered in 1920 and expanded to a large line of children’s tricycles/bicycles over the years. In 1931, A. Mecky Co. was sold to E.C. Brown in Rochester, NY. The factory in Philadelphia eventually closed, but Ledig remained Vice-President until his retirement. 

Today, tricycle collectors around the globe value A. Mecky Co. tricycles, and at this very moment, one is presiding at our 5218 N. Broad Street campus. Come visit and we would love to show you! 

Sources: The Online Bicycle Museum, TricycleFetish, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The City of Philadelphia

On-site Camera

Check out the latest images from the construction site below, updating every 15 minutes. 

Foundations Being Placed

Exciting progress is being made at the construction site. The foundations are currently being placed in the new addition of the school. The footings are dug into the ground, the reinforcing steel is placed, and then the concrete will be poured into the footings by a pump. The reinforcing steel and concrete will create the strength needed to support the building upon it. It will not be long before the structural steel and skeleton of the school goes up! 

A Groundbreaking Celebration

On Tuesday, November 21st we held a groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate the start of construction on our new school campus. Below is our president and founder John R. McConnell’s address to the more than 300 guests.

 

I want you to imagine that you are standing exactly where you are now, but it’s 100 years ago – November of 1917.  You would be standing in the middle of a busy factory.  A factory that makes tricycles.  Mecky Velo-King tricycles.  The factory would be loud and dirty but the mood in the air would be upbeat and positive because lots of tricycles would be moving out onto the shipping dock and off into Philadelphia homes for Christmas.

Now, turn your clock forward and image that you are standing here in February of 2019 – about 16 months from now.  You are standing in our dining hall.  The space is busy with students eating healthy food in a clean, safe and friendly environment.  Once again, the mood is upbeat and positive because Christmas is just around the corner and news of college acceptances keeps everyone lively and hopeful.

 Now, come back to today. There are about 300 of us here today.  Four hundred more students and faculty are watching a live-stream of this event at our current school in Logan.  And many of our families and our Work-Study Partners are live streaming from home or from work. 

 So, we have a really big crowd watching us today.  But why?  What’s the big deal?

 We are building a beautiful new campus.  That’s for sure.  But something else is happening here at 1717 Allegheny Ave. that’s much bigger than a new campus.

The Cristo Rey community loves this city.  We are bullish about Philadelphia’s future.  We also love the children in this city and we understand their enormous potential to do good for themselves and for our entire community.

But, today, 40% of our brothers and sisters in this city are caught in the trap of poverty. Philadelphia will never realize its own potential to be a great city if we don’t solve the problem of poverty.  Poverty destroys human potential on a grand scale.   Poverty divides us.  Living amidst the injustice of poverty dehumanizes all of us.

 Cristo Rey is a nuclear weapon in the war against poverty.  It is not our mission to make poverty more tolerable.  Our mission is to eliminate poverty.  We are a proven, reliable and permanent escape from the trap of generational poverty.  We offer a top quality college prep education and four years of work experience in Philadelphia’s best companies.

 We are the school that works.  Cristo Rey Philadelphia is 6 years old and we have two classes of graduates.  100% of our graduates were accepted into to a four-year college … and 92% of them are enrolled in college today.

 Cristo Rey is the school that works because we are much more than a little school in North Philadelphia.  We are a large and powerful partnership of leaders in Philadelphia … all focused on one mission … and that mission is the success of the students.

  • We are 490 students and their families who come from all over Philadelphia … and even some from Camden and Delaware County and Montgomery County.

  •  We are 75 hard working, tough loving faculty and staff.

  • We are 90 of Philadelphia’s finest professional organizations including Comcast, Independence Blue Cross, FMC, accounting firms, law firms, hospitals, and non-profits.

  • We are hundreds of Philadelphia’s most generous philanthropists (including the granddaddies of them all – The Maguire Foundation and the Connelly Foundation).

  • We are university partners including Temple, Penn State, Drexel, Villanova, St. Joe's and others

  • We are feeder school partners including Global Leadership Academy, The Independence Mission Schools, Gesu, La Salle Academy and others.

  • We are one of 32 Cristo Rey schools that serve over 11,000 students across the USA.

  • We are elected officials who do more than just talk – but actually use their influence to make good things happen for the people in the neighborhoods.

  • We are the Tioga community through our partnership with Tioga United and their great leader, Verna Tyner.

  • And of course, we are the godsons and goddaughters of Bobby Williams who was a community leader in this Tioga neighborhood for most of his 82 years until he left us two weeks ago.  But I know that Bobby is also live streaming us right now from heaven in his Cristo Rey hoodie and he is loving what he sees here today.

So, let me finish this portion with a message to the students:  I want all of you students to remember who’s here today and why they came.  They are here because they love you and they believe in you.  They are eager to invest in your future because they believe that your future is the future of our city.  They expect that you will become leaders.  And, they expect that, when you do, you will love and serve others just like they love and serve you now.

Amen!

Now we are going to talk about money.

This new campus is going to cost about $37 million.  That’s the land, buildings, fields, parking, lawyers, everything – all in.  And we want to raise $3 million more to begin an endowment.

$40 million … to build a permanent home for the school that works.

The good news is that we have already raised $33 million.  Where did that come from?

  • $5 million from The Maguire Foundation
  • $2 million from The Connelly Foundation
  • $5 million from our generous Board of Trustees
  •  Incredible support from our closest friends and supporters

The Maguire Foundation helped us to start the school in 2012 and, since then, they have provided scholarships to many of our students at Cristo Rey and now more scholarships when they go to college.  More than a year ago the Maguire Foundation gave us the gift of $5 million to launch this campaign.

Their gift is why we are all here today.  It’s why I am confident that we will finish this $40 million campaign successfully.  It’s why we will call this (soon to be beautiful) place- Cristo Rey Philadelphia at the Maguire Campus.

At Cristo Rey we like to dream big dreams. The Maguire Foundation makes our dreams come true. 

So we have about $7.0 million yet to raise in order to reach our goal of $40.  We need help from all of you to finish.  There are plenty of ways to help and all of you can help.  If you are willing to help – in any way – please call us.  If you don’t call us, don’t be surprised when we call you.

 

We look forward to sharing updates on the capital project through this page. Together, we are Building a Home for the School That Works!