Promise Zones First Round Urban Designees

In his 2013 State of the Union address, President Obama announced the establishment of the Promise Zones Initiative to partner with high-poverty communities across the country to create jobs, increase economic security, expand educational opportunities, increase access to quality, affordable housing, and improve public safety.

On January 8, 2014, the President announced the first round of urban Promise Zone designations in a ceremony at the White House. They are located in: Los Angeles, CA; Philadelphia, PA; and San Antonio, TX.

Each of these urban communities submitted a plan on how it will partner with local business and community leaders to make investments that reward hard work and expand opportunity.

In exchange, the Federal government is helping these Promise Zone designees secure the resources and flexibility they need to achieve their goals.

View Promise Zones Designees, Finalists, and Applicants.

View Shapefiles for All Promise Zones First Round Designees.

Los Angeles Promise Zone

Los Angeles Promise Zone Teacher Helping Student

2015 In Review

The LA Promise Zone Initiative is a collective impact project to fight urban poverty.  It provides resources and leadership to public, non-profit, and community-based organizations that are committed to making Central Los Angeles a better place to live, work, and play.  The City of Los Angeles is the lead agency in this initiative, and the LA Promise Zone Operations Team is housed within the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development.

The LA Promise Zone was established in January 2014.  Since then, we have forged powerful partnerships and developed best practices in aligning federal and local funding to create better lives for the students and families who call our city home.


Our Promise Zone is located in Central Los Angeles, covering the diverse communities of Pico-Union, Westlake, Wilshire Center, East Hollywood and Hollywood. These five neighborhoods lie just west of downtown Los Angeles. The area is one of the most densely populated in Los Angeles — housing 34,000 people per square mile, compared with an average density of 8,000 across the city.

The LA Promise Zone is home to over 165,000 residents, with a population that is 60% Latino; 4% African-American; 16% white; and 20% Asian-Pacific Islander.

Tackling the challenges facing these communities begins with leadership that brings people together. This work would not be possible without the dedication and generous support of our partners in this initiative. They represent the diverse makeup of the LA Promise Zone, and provide the services necessary to meet the needs of the area’s multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and Limited-English Proficient (LEP) populations.

Theory of Change

In the LA Promise Zone, we are dedicated to boosting quality of life for our residents, and improving the places they call home.  We’re expanding affordable housing options, creating a more sustainable city, and building a better relationship between the LAPD and the neighborhoods they serve. The LA Promise Zone Partnership is central to this effort — combating urban poverty by providing our young people with a “cradle-to-college-and-career” pathway.  This approach creates better educational outcomes for our youth, and we are seeing those effects ripple into positive change for surrounding communities.

Our partnership goals center on economic development, education, public safety, and sustainable neighborhoods. We spent a year developing the Partnership’s Strategic Plan, which was adopted in January of 2016. Partners like the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the County of Los Angeles, and First 5 L.A. — along with our social sector partners — are actively engaged in our efforts. 


Community schools are a crucial element in the Promise Zone theory of change. These campuses are not just safe places where children go to learn and play; they are also resource hubs that families can utilize for support and a variety of services. 

Utilizing the full-service community school model at 13 schools in the LA Promise Zone, we are working with LAUSD, the Youth Policy Institute (YPI), and other partners to make these campuses central to enrichment and outreach for local families — with resources that range from early childhood education and gang intervention, to parenting workshops and information about higher education.

A prime example of this theory in action is the work of Promise Corps tutors at the STEM Academy of Hollywood at Bernstein High. They have helped more than 10% of the senior class get accepted to UCLA in 2016. 

GEAR UP 4 LA is another proven program in the LA Promise Zone. It provides extensive school-based supportive services to students — in order to improve academic achievement, help them graduate from high school, and prepare them for college. Thanks to the funding preference that comes with a Promise Zone designation, GEAR UP 4 LA has brought more than $12.7 million to 11 LA Promise Zone schools — and will ultimately support almost 4,000 kids over the seven-year grant period.

In 2015, LAUSD was also awarded the Youth CareerConnect program grant — which has funded efforts to develop career academies at local schools that will focus on health care, biotechnology, and other technology-related industries. These academies will help LA Promise Zone kids learn the necessary skills to compete and take full advantage of employment opportunities in our city. 

Economic Activity

One of the key goals of the Promise Zone initiative is making sure that our local economy continues to thrive. 

Today, the health care, information, and scientific sectors are central to our local economic strength. The health care industry alone comprises 1/3 of the total private employment in the Promise Zone — nearly twice the concentration in the city as a whole. In the last five years, scientific and technical industries in the Promise Zone have grown at a rate of 9.6% — twice that of the city as a whole, and bringing a large number of high-wage job opportunities.

HIRE LA’s Youth is one of the City’s strongest youth development programs, and it is critical to our efforts to help young people prepare for their future. Working with our Economic & Workforce Development Department, the L.A. Chamber of Commerce plays a key role in helping to pair job-seekers with private sector employers.  We have established the goal of connecting 2,000 young people from the LA Promise Zone to summer employment each year.

Public Safety

One of the most important parts of any child’s education is a safe route to school, and a crime-free walk home.  That’s why LA Promise Zone partners created the Safe Passage Program at Le Conte Middle School in Hollywood.  Working with the Los Angeles City Attorney, YPI, and LAUSD, volunteers monitor their communities and report unusual or crime-related activity.

Today, Le Conte has 15-20 volunteers who give their time to ensure that students and families can enjoy a safe environment.  Since the creation of this program, overall safety of the school has increased and incidents reported to LAPD have dropped significantly.

Another way to support community schools is by improving road safety in LA Promise Zone neighborhoods.  Los Angeles has committed itself to Vision Zero — a plan to end traffic fatalities in the City.  That needs to begin at our local schools.  Today, we are working to ensure that the 16 Promise Zone schools near high injury corridors are prioritized — so that this vision can be realized by the end of the Promise Zone designation.


LA Promise Zone partners have developed an innovative approach to improving and expanding access to school playgrounds, in order to better serve neighborhoods.  This is one of the first ideas to come out of our collective work, and it has significant momentum and promise for addressing the lack of public open space in the central city.

This work began in our Neighborhoods Working Group, and was recognized with funding from a local foundation in December. Currently, we are pursuing funding for a demonstration project to lead a community-based design process for a school yard improvement project.  We are also now actively engaged with the Department of Recreation and Parks to explore how we might align our city’s resources to make our vision a reality.

Federal Funding awarded 
In 2014-2015:


Education :87%

Economic Activity: 7%

Neighborhoods: 5%

Public Safety: 0%

Operations: 1%

Similarly, through a budding LA Promise Zone Community School Parks task force — comprised of organizations like People for Parks, Trust for Public Land, LAUSD, and the Department Recreation and Parks — we are working toward addressing the community’s clear need for more safe and accessible open space.  Given that this is a priority in the Mayor’s Vision Zero initiative and Sustainable City pLAn, the LA Promise Zone is piloting a joint-use approach at three of its schools — creating a model that can be applied across the LA Promise Zone and beyond.


With our ambitious agenda, we’ve been successful at securing significant federal funding to support key strategies and programs. We are now developing cross-sector implementation teams to address homelessness, immigration, and economic opportunity. And as only possible in Los Angeles, the LA Promise Zone is building a case study for the nation that is uniquely focused on the immigrant experience and immigrant integration.

The City of Angels has always been a hub of innovation. Working with everyday citizens and our social sector partners, we are building a city where everyone has the opportunity to build a promising future.

-Mayor Eric Garcetti

Download Los Angeles Promise Zone Fact Sheet

View Los Angeles Promise Plan.

Philadelphia Promise Zone

Philadelphia Promise Zone Train Tracks

2015 Year in Review


The West Philadelphia Promise Zone is an intersection of need and opportunity for the city of Philadelphia. There are approximately 35,000 people living in the Promise Zone. Forty-nine percent of all individuals and 56 percent of children there live in poverty. The federally-designated anti¬poverty initiative’s boundaries are Girard Avenue, Sansom Street, 48th Street, and the Schuylkill River. It includes the neighborhoods of Mantua, Powelton Village, West Powelton, Saunders Park, Belmont, and Mill Creek. The location affords opportunity: It is directly north of University City, where much of Philadelphia’s economic development and large scale commercial and institutional investment is taking place.

The Promise Zone has organized around five different policy areas:

  • Education
  • Health & Wellness
  • Economic Development
  • Public Safety
  • Housing

Each policy area has an implementation committee responsible for advancing relevant work. These policy areas align with the priorities of Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration, which seeks to make Philadelphia a city in which everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed in life, regardless of their ZIP code. Initiatives such as community schools, Universal Pre-K, and the support for new career pathways for the unemployed and opportunity youth will make a difference for all Philadelphia residents and its neighborhoods, with a special focus on the West Philadelphia Promise Zone. Mayor Kenny’s policy agenda can be summarized in the following five goals:

  • Improve educational opportunities and outcomes
  • Improve economic opportunities
  • Improve public safety while treating residents with respect and dignity
  • Operate efficiently and effectively
  • Develop a diverse workforce and treat workforce with respect

The initiatives of the West Philadelphia Promise Zone, described in greater detail below, are working to help realize the shared vision of a city made up of thriving and nurturing communities, where children, families and individuals have the best chance to achieve their full potential.

West Philadelphia Promise Zone – Initiatives

Promise Zone policy area: Economic development

Mayoral priority: Improve economic opportunity

Overview: Coordinated lending to small businesses in the Promise Zone

The Promise Zone’s Small and Emerging Business group has worked to convene lenders, technical assistance providers, and businesses to create a streamlined process through which business can receive funding for capital improvements. Partners in this endeavor have been supported by federal programs including the Small Business Administration’s PRIME and the Department of Treasury’s Financial Assistance Grant.As of Spring 2016, more than a dozen businesses have participated in the coordinated lending program and received technical assistance.

An identified best practice was the creation of a mechanism through which prospective borrowers can connect to a variety of lenders and technical assistance providers.

Promise Zone policy area: Education

Mayoral priority: Improve educational opportunities and outcomes

Overview: Promise Corps AmeriCorps

A key project supporting education is Promise Corps, an AmeriCorps college and career readiness program. Launched in October 2015, the program helps students identify, pursue, and transition into higher education or careers. The Corporation for National and Community Service expects to award $1.4 million to fund this initiative in the West Philadelphia Promise Zone and the Los Angeles Promise Zone over three years, making it the first bi-state Promise Zone award. The award supports 25 AmeriCorps members working in four West Philadelphia high schools, each serving a case load of at least 40 students. In a school district where the student-to-guidance counselor ratio is roughly 700:1, Promise Corps adds capacity to schools preparing students for post-secondary options.

Promise Zone policy area: Health and Wellness

Mayoral priority: Improve educational opportunities and outcomes

Overview: Healthy Start

The Philadelphia Department of Public Health received $2,000,000 in September of 2014 from the U.S. Department of Health to launch the Healthy Start Initiative in the Promise Zone. The Healthy Start program aims to reduce disparities in infant mortality and adverse perinatal outcomes by: 1) improving women’s health, 2) promoting quality services, 3) strengthening family resilience, 4) achieving collective impact, and 5) increasing accountability through quality improvement, performance monitoring and evaluation. Healthy Start focuses fifty percent of its efforts on the West Philadelphia Promise Zone.

Promise Zone policy area: Housing

Mayoral priority: Improve economic opportunities

Overview: Home Preservation Initiative

The Home Preservation Initiative (HPI) is sponsored by multiple Promise Zone Housing Committee Partners including the Local Initiative Support Corporation (LISC), People’s Emergency Center (PEC), Mount Vernon Manor CDC, Habitat for Humanity, Rebuilding Together Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging and Drexel University. HPI provides home repair and weatherization for low-income homeowners. Coordinating housing services among non-profits increases the number of homes served and supports greater impact. Targeting at-risk homeowners stabilizes existing homes in the Promise Zone and creates capital within the community for long-time residents. For the year of 2016 HPI has a set goal to serve 75 homes in the targeted area. Beginning in 2017 the long term goal is to serve 100 homes each year.

Promise Zone policy area: Public Safety

Mayoral priority: Improve Public Safety with Respect and Dignity

Overview: The Mantua Greenway

Promise Zone partners, including Mount Vernon Manor and Local Initiative Support Corporation (LISC), are supporting the efforts of grassroots community organizations to create the Mantua Greenway from a blighted section of Mantua Avenue. With funds contributed by the William Penn Foundation and the state, planning and rehabilitation are underway. Eventually the Greenway will serve as a walking and bike path, a green space and link to other parts of the city.

The Greenway grew from one resident’s efforts to beautify a section of the neglected street, and design continues to involve extensive collaboration with the community. April 2016 marked the start of “Mantua Greenway Design Month.” Three events organized by Mount Vernon Manor brought together community members to learn more about the Greenway, provide feedback on design plans, and beautify an intersection.

View Philadelphia Promise Plan.

San Antonio Promise Zone

San Antonio Promise Zone Running Children

2015 Year in Review

San Antonio’s Promise Zone is home to more than 70,000 residents and spans twenty-two miles. Due to its size, we have focused our initial efforts in the Choice and Promise neighborhoods footprint, also known as EastPoint.

Over the past two years, the City of San Antonio has established the Office of EastPoint to serve as the backbone agency charged with overall coordination and implementation of initiatives within the Promise Zone. In addition, a three-tier governance structure was created, which includes a coordinating council that is chaired by me. In all, more than 30 partners are working together to make a positive impact in the Promise Zone.

More than $54 million in federal investments has been awarded to San Antonio to increase economic activity, to improve behavioral outcomes for children, to address substance abuse and to serve ex-offenders returning to the community—with approximately $10.2 million supporting the Eastside Promise Zone. This funding will go a long way in supporting ongoing efforts to make lasting change.

Progress is being made in connecting residents to employment opportunities, with the unemployment rate in the Promise Zone having declined four percent between 2012 and 2015. Also during this time, the total number of jobs created and retained on the eastside using city incentives increased from 469 to 1,300.

Looking ahead, the Office of EastPoint will focus on activities that build new affordable and market-rate housing, implementing strategies that encourage property owners and investors to support these efforts. We will seek opportunities that spark small business and workforce development while implementing public safety and community engagement strategies to reduce overall crime.

Early childhood education will continue to be a top priority as we work to increase the number of children ready for kindergarten, taking our Pre-K 4 SA program to new heights. We opened the Pre-K 4 SA Eastside Education Center in fall 2014. Today, more than 300 children are enrolled.

The eastside of San Antonio was once a thriving community and the heart of the city's African-American community. While we have made significant progress, there is more work to achieve. As such, I have allocated $100,000 in City General Fund dollars as seed funds for a neighborhood sustainability plan to evaluate, replicate and scale up the meaningful EastPoint collective impact work. My vision is for EastPoint to become a vibrant, mixed-income community that’s rich in diversity and opportunity.

-Mayor Ivy R. Taylor

Strengthening Public Safety

With the Byrne Criminal Justice Grant funds, the San Antonio Housing Authority and Promise Zone partners opened the Resurgence Collaborative designed to reduce recidivism by providing free wrap-around services to formerly incarcerated individuals and those on probation. The services provided include individual and family counseling, support for victims of domestic abuse, batterer’s intervention prevention program, sexual assault survivor support, parenting classes and fatherhood initiative, assistance with welfare benefit sign up, drug addiction recovery classes and counseling, life skills counseling, employment readiness and GED classes. Additionally, Byrne funds are being used to increase police foot patrol, hot spot policing and safe school zones.

In addition to the Byrne Grant, San Antonio was recently awarded a $1 million grant to deploy body cameras to uniformed officers assigned to Park Police and Bike Patrol Units to provide additional safety to officers and residents. To further the public safety efforts, City Council allocated an additional $250,000 to deploy a ShotSpotter technology pilot program in the Promise Zone. ShotSpotter gunfire detection data enables law enforcement officers to act proactively by instantly notifying officers of gunshot crime locations in progress with real-time data delivered to dispatch centers, patrol cars and even smart phones.

Connecting Residents to Workforce Opportunities

The City of San Antonio has partnered with Alamo Community Colleges and Workforce Solutions Alamo to launch the Promise Zone to Work initiative. The program provides job training opportunities to Promise Zone residents for in-demand occupations, including certified nursing assistants, manufacturing, heavy equipment operators, IT/Computer technology, welding, childcare development and customer services/retail. Since the program began in July 2015, 104 students have received occupational certifications. All Promise Zone to Work students receive soft skills training that focuses on career readiness, and all graduates are connected to externships and employment. To sustain this initiative, the City and Promise Zone partners plan to open a one-stop education and workforce training center at the former Pfeiffer Elementary School in summer 2016.

Promoting Economic Development

Since 2014, 21 new businesses have opened in the near eastside of the Promise Zone. Local economic development partner San Antonio for Growth on the Eastside (SAGE) is implementing the $2 million Grow Eastside Fund to provide low-interest loans to grow small businesses in the footprint. The loan program was developed in partnership with the National Development Council's Grow America Fund with additional funding from area banks. To date, a $500,000 loan has been granted to a local business. SAGE is also implementing the SAGE Equity Fund to invest equity shares in new businesses in the Promise Zone. This program was developed from a $740,998 Community Economic Development grant from the Department of Health and Human Services.

The equity fund operates like a venture capital, investing in eastside companies to help them grow and add jobs. To date, three equity investments have been made to Indatatech (Instant Data Technologies), Chealsea’s Catering Services and MEDwheels Inc. This grant will generate and sustain 47 jobs in the three aforementioned industries, and 75 percent of the jobs created will be filled by low-income individuals. In addition, SAGE provided 56 storefront grants to existing businesses to make interior and exterior improvements, and provided capacity building and technical assistance to existing and potential businesses.

Bridging the Digital Divide

In July 2015, San Antonio was selected to participate in ConnectHome, an initiative to extend affordable broadband access to families living in HUD-assisted housing. The program has brought together local organizations and civic and business leaders in San Antonio to work toward expanding broadband access.

Through these efforts, the City of San Antonio is working to provide children and families living in public housing with the same high speed access to knowledge and opportunity that millions of people already enjoy.

Improving Access to Information Technology

Project QUEST and its partners received a $6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to meet the demand for specialized skills in Information Technology occupations. This grant is assisting long-term unemployed Promise Zone residents by connecting them to jobs in the IT field. San Antonio was recently named the number-two cyber security hub in the United States.

Creating Affordable Housing and Improving Public Infrastructure

To support the Choice Neighborhood redevelopment project, the City allocated $2 million in the FY2016 budget for street improvements around the 412-unit, $108 million Wheatley Courts redevelopment project. This $2 million allocation is part of the City’s $19.5 million commitment to leverage the Wheatley/Choice project.

The City also invested $46 million in 2012 Bond program capital projects and street maintenance funds to improve drainage, parks, facilities, streets and sidewalks in the Promise Zone. Street repairs and construction are underway throughout the Promise Zone. One project highlight is the $10 million Menger Creak Linear Park project, located within walking distance from the Wheatley Choice Neighborhood, which will be completed in early 2017.

Expanding Educational Opportunities

With the Promise Neighborhoods grant funds, the United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County partnered with the San Antonio Independent School District to provide additional resources to Sam Houston High School. As a result, graduation rates have increased from 46% in 2010 to 81% in 2015. At the same time, the dropout rate declined from 35% to 15%. Moreover, the percentage of Promise Zone residents attending the local community college increased from 1% in 2013 to nearly 10% in 2015.

Increasing Access to Healthy Foods

Over the past two years, three farmer’s markets have been opened to provide residents access to local fresh fruits and vegetables. The first farmer’s market opened at the Ella Austin Community Center; the second opened at Sam Houston High School as part of a class project while the third was opened by a group of community residents. Moreover, as part of the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative, planning has begun to develop a 10-acre urban farm consisting of fresh fruits, vegetable, poultry and livestock. The urban farm is a unique partnership with Bexar County’s 4-H Office.

To encourage healthy behaviors and fitness activities, the City and San Antonio Sports Foundation opened a School-Park, or SPARK Park, at Wheatley Middle School to provide a local activity center for children in the neighborhood. The SPARK Park is maintained by the school district and is open to the public after school hours.

Partnering with AmeriCorps VISTA Members

San Antonio Promise Zone VISTA members have developed a neighborhood engagement pay-it-forward program called Eastside Good Vibes, where local non-profit and community organizations pledge monthly to pay it forward with good deeds in the community. Since the program’s inception, three successful events have been held, including a first responder appreciation dinner on 9/11, yard maintenance for ten homes and food distribution to 250 families. Additionally, the VISTA members partnered with the Resurgence Collaborative to host the HarvEAST Festival—a community block party at the corner of Dawson and North New Braunfels Avenue, a prominent drug hot spot. More than 400 residents attended the festival, and more than 50 partner organizations were present with resource and information tables. In 2016, the VISTA members will develop strategies to engage the faith-based community and develop a neighborhood services directory to be distributed to businesses, churches and residents.

Enhancing Community Engagement

The City launched several initiatives to enhance resident engagement and to offer educational and employment opportunities.

  • The Neighborhood Leadership Academy (NLA) is a four-month educational program designed to teach established and emerging Promise Zone neighborhood leaders on how the city functions and how to actively participate in the revitalization of their neighborhoods. The inaugural NLA graduated 37 Promise Zone leaders. The next class of leaders will be held in fall 2016.
  • Several Ready, Set, Work! east side job fairs were held to connect Promise Zone residents to good paying jobs. The job fairs have resulted in 80 interviews and 30 on-site conditional hires.

View San Antonio Promise Plan.