PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Philadelphia Housing Authority broke ground Wednesday on the third phase of the redesign and revitalization of the Sharswood-Blumberg neighborhood. It’s part of a 10-year, $500 million investment into that section of North Philadelphia.
The 13-story Norman Blumberg Senior Tower at 23rd and Bolton Streets will be transformed into 97 rehabbed one bedroom units of affordable housing for seniors. The $28 million project is just one part of a multiphase effort.
“So we’ve spent to date over $108 million,” says Kelyvn Jeremiah, president of Philadelphia Housing Authority. The agency which imploded two of the three apartment towers within the so-called Blumberg “SuperBlock” and took over several blocks of blighted vacant land. Phase One, which included 57 units of affordable housing worth $20 million was completed last year. Since then, ground breaking and ongoing construction of the new $45 million, 135,000 square foot PHA headquarters and a renovated Vaux High School.
“There’s a lot more that is in the pipeline as we continue to transform a once neglected community,” says Jeremiah, “there is a tremendous amount of work and resources that is being put into this community.”
“I think it’s great thing,” says Rupert Alston who once lived in the Senior Tower. He was relocated to Wilson Park in South Philadelphia, but gets the opportunity to move into the rehabbed towers once they are complete.
“I can’t wait to come back,” says Alston, “I’ve been living here for 32 years- this is home to me.”
Alston says the area used to be rife with drugs and violence. But the transformation got rid of so-called “riff-raff” making the way for a new community for the people who stayed the course.
City Council President Darrell Clarke says large swaths of publicly owned land made Sharswood ideal for transformation.
“I think you will see the ripple effect from this project ripple throughout Philadelphia,” says Clarke, whose district is home to two-thirds of PHA’s new affordable housing. “What we did was prepare a lot of this vacant land for development.”
Clarke pointed to several initiatives under previous administrations where the city strategically worked to hold onto land.
“The simple reality is if you want to recreate neighborhoods any developer will tell you, you have to have site control, he says, “and we’re fortunate that we have site control and we’re fortunate that we have site control which is why you see the most significant development happening in North Philadelphia.”
In addition to the new Senior Tower, city officials broke ground on an $8.9 million street project that will reconnect North 23rd Street between Oxford and Jefferson Streets by building a right of way formerly occupied by the Blumberg Aparments superblock. The design also calls for the creation of Bucknell Way, a new street that goes north-south between Oxford and Jefferson.
There will also be new “green streets,” which will use trees and planters to capture and manage rainwater and snow run off. PHA will also install lights on the new streets to make the area more walkable thanks to a $250,000 Philadelphia Water Department grant.
The Blumberg Senior Tower will be completed by the end of 2018.