By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The hulking, high-rise public housing that had been sitting vacant on a Germantown street for three years is now gone. Officials imploded the Queen Lane Apartments Saturday morning.

The Philadelphia Housing Authority plans to replace the 16-story building with 55 low-rise and townhouse units — but first it had to get rid of the building. Residents in a one square block area were evacuated and crews brought down the building in a spectacular cloud of dust shortly before 7:30 a.m.

“We are relieved to conclude a long journey that began over three years ago and, as promised, affordable housing will return to this community,” said PHA President and CEO Kelvin A. Jeremiah. “I know the new, modern affordable housing will enhance this neighborhood and spur other economic growth in this community.”

The apartments were built in 1955 when high-rise public housing was in vogue, but 50 years later, it was clear that model did not work. The building was vacated in 2011, but demolition was postponed because of neighborhood concerns and interest in a burial ground on the site.

PHA officials have worked out those obstacles and neighbors say they’re happy the building will be replaced with units more in character with the neighborhood.

“This represents progress, but it’s also a time for us to remember and reflect upon the history of this community,” said Councilwoman Cindy Bass.” PHA is investing in our neighborhood by committing to creating new opportunities for affordable housing in Germantown. I’m happy to see that after years of working together, this project is finally coming to fruition.”

Prior to the implosion, several community members took part in a ritual to consecrate the site, out of respect for those buried there.

With the demolition of Queen Lane, the PHA has eight high-rise sites remaining with 16 high-rises containing 1,880 units.

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