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Chris Spahr - Energy Investment District


Professional background: Christopher Spahr is the Executive Director of the Centennial Parkside CDC. 

Project background: Chris will continue his work on the development of an energy investment district in the East Parkside neighborhood of Philadelphia, which will ultimately generate solar energy for cultural institutions such as the Please Touch Museum and the Philadelphia Zoo, as well as create a sustainable revenue stream for the community. 

East Parkside is bordered by 34th Street to the East, Belmont Avenue to the West, Fairmount Park to the North, and the Amtrak Corridor to the South. In addition to the non-profits benefitting from the investment district, the Centennial Parkside Community Development Corporation (CPCDC) and the residents that it serves in East Parkside, will receive revenue that will be directly funneled into the economic development goals of the community. 

Both cultural institutions mentioned above are supportive of the project, as it aids them in meeting their strategic goals around energy sustainability, and the community supports the project, aware that renewable and efficient energy systems can create jobs and wealth for communities. In the next phase of the project, the intention is to install solar canopies over the parking lots of both cultural institutions. 

As other cities and states move quickly to a 100% transition to a renewable energy future, Philadelphia’s residents continue to look for innovative ways to move beyond the limitations of state and federal policy to create a scalable model that can show the viability and opportunity of creating a renewable energy economy that can not only develop communities but do it in ways that can halt or reverse displacement, respond to residents’ needs, and respect the autonomy and decision-making of an existing community. 

Chris has entered into a preliminary agreement with a solar developer who is providing access to financing and technical support for developing two solar facilities, as well as receiving a Sunshot grant through the Department of Energy to further develop the model. During the Fellowship, the project will enter into a rigorous community engagement phase, which will involve using a diversity of forums for community discussion around the burden of home energy costs, the importance of environmental sustainability as a neighborhood develops, and the possibility of an energy reinvestment district in East Parkside.

Philadelphia is in a position to demonstrate that renewable energy models can work, especially in a time when federal funding for local community development is in question, innovative approaches like this offer an alternative, scalable and replicable funding model for advancing the larger community development goals around poverty reduction. While initially focused in Parkside, the intention is to create a model that is applicable nation-wide. 

Project updates: