Kecia Hilliard, 48, began as the building manager for the John C. Anderson Apartments Aug. 27. Hilliard is an employee of Pennrose Properties, the developer spearheading the project with the Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld Fund.
Hilliard has more than 20 years of experience in property management. Most recently, she served as facilities manager for a company based in Norristown, but said she was eager to attain a position with more personal interaction.
“A lot of what I was doing was from behind a computer or on the telephone, and I really missed that human interaction that property management can bring,” Hilliard said. “I’m a social butterfly, and I need to be face-to-face, dealing with humans. That other position was fulfilling but this will be even more fulfilling, being able to see this project to completion and knowing I’m going to be helping and working directly with people I care about and can relate to.”
Hilliard is an out lesbian who was raised and still lives in Mt. Airy. She expects to complete her bachelor’s degree in management in the spring at Pierce College, and will then pursue a master’s degree. She has a 23-year-old daughter who is studying for her master’s at University of Pennsylvania’s School of Government.
When Hilliard learned of the opening for the John C. Anderson Apartments, she said she was eager to fuse her career in property management with her passion for her community.
“I was so excited that this is the first project of its kind on the East Coast,” she said. “This is such an underserved community, and I really feel like I can make a difference here. I think I can bring a little excitement.”
In the beginning of her tenure, Hilliard will be responsible for the lease-up of the whole building.
The first 112 individuals to complete pre-applications will be scheduled for an appointment to submit a full application. Hilliard will oversee the evaluation process where applicants are screened for income and other eligibility requirements before the 56 residents are selected.
Once residents move in, Hilliard will guide day-to-day operations, including maintenance and other resident needs.
She said she plans to foster a culture of inclusion and familiarity with the residents.
“I want to make my residents feel happy and welcome,” she said. “I’m going to wear many hats, everything from social worker to sister, daughter, mom — whatever I can do to make the residents feel safe. So many of these seniors have not even been out of the closet until now, so I want to make sure everyone feels secure.”
Hilliard said she hopes to help make the John C. Anderson Apartments, expected to open in January, a model for LGBT-friendly housing.
“I want this to be the catalyst for many more community projects of this nature, in Philadelphia and in other cities. This can be a model to inspire other cities to make housing available to gays and lesbians throughout the country,” she said.
The dmhFund had its first board meeting in the building Sept. 4.
Pre-applications can start being submitted at 9 a.m. Sept. 9 at William Way LGBT Community Center, 1315 Spruce St.
Hilliard said she’s looking forward to diving headfirst into the next phase of the project.
“I’m just really excited to be a part of history,” she said. “I’m nervous and I’m excited, but I guess that’s a good thing. I’m just ready to get in and get my hands dirty. I know we’re going to have some great, friendly residents, and I’m expecting a full cast of characters, which I know I’ll love.”