3952-54 Lancaster Avenue is no ordinary mixed-use development project, it attracted the attention of a community and called for a rally. Read on to learn what the controversy began over, and how the project designers came to a solution.
History of the Mural
“We have a method that can bring about that togetherness. If we’re going to solve this problem, we have to realize the urgency of the moment. Don’t wait until next year. We’ve got to realize that the moment is before us now.” With these words, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made history at the corner of 40th Street and Lancaster Avenue in North Philadelphia on August 3, 1965.
Throughout the summer of 1965, King embarked on his “Freedom Now” tour to bring his message into Black neighborhoods in the northern United States. The tour made stops in Chicago, Cleveland, Boston, and Philadelphia, supporting local civil rights efforts and raising funds. On his visit to Philadelphia, he famously appeared in front of a massive crowd of 10,000 civil rights demonstrators at Girard College.
King’s efforts in the city of Philadelphia helped to end the segregation of schools and called out churches for acting as ‘taillights rather than headlights of the civil rights movement.’ 50 years later, to commemorate the Rev. Dr.’s support of local civil rights efforts, a mural was placed at the corner of 40th Street and Lancaster on the side of 3950 Haverford Avenue.
The State of the Mural Today
In 2022, when our client, Full Court Development, purchased the land next to the famous mural and planned to erect new construction, panic arose concerning MLK being covered up. The project that our architects are designing with Full Court Development will be a three-story mixed-use building that would, unfortunately, entirely block the mural.
In July, Chosen 300 Ministries Executive Director Brian Jenkins organized a rally imploring Full Court to keep the homage to King on the new building, according to CBS News. “We’re not trying to stop development, but we are trying to stop you from taking away from our history,” Jenkins explained.
Plans for the Future
Upon realizing this, Full Court listened to the community’s concerns and went to work to find a solution. After meeting with the neighborhood’s RCO (Registered Community Organization), they concluded that if the building’s design was altered a bit, it would allow for the mural to be replaced and remain visible to the public.
Our architecture team was then called on to jump back into the project to make the necessary changes to fit the design and location requested by the RCO. Not only did this project rely on the collaboration between the architects, developers, and community members, but in order to truly preserve this intersection's invaluable history, the people behind the mural needed to be on board as well. Thankfully, Philly Mural Arts have agreed to participate in the project by replacing the mural on 3952-54 Lancaster Avenue. Designblendz was more than happy to contribute to finding a solution to this highly-controversial issue, and our team is very excited to see how the building, and mural, turn out.
This mural will continue to remind the city of King’s message and the ongoing fight for true equality. With this work of art, may his words forever ring through the streets of Philadelphia;
“We must say to the nation that now is the time. Make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time. Transform the dark yesterdays of man’s inhumanity into the bright tomorrows of justice and freedom.”
Here is the rendering representing what the finished project will look like: