Controversy lurks as zoning board considers Nicetown affordable senior-housing plan

A plan that would see 50 units of affordable senior housing at 18th and Courtland streets in Nicetown will be before the city zoning board this week.

Nicetown Community Development Corporation and Universal Companies Inc. are looking to build the three-story rental building at 1801 W. Courtland St., on a 3.5-acre property near Stenton Park and owned by Triumph Baptist Church.

The development would be a third step in the area redevelopment already underway in Nicetown Court I and II, along a nearby stretch of Germantown Avenue.

Along the 4400 block of Germantown Ave., concrete foundation slabs and narrow wood frames of new housing near the Wayne Junction SEPTA station are taking shape. The rental homes near Uber and Rowan streets are part of Nicetown Court II.

Not without controversy

Triumph Baptist is a co-developer on the project, and the church’s pastor, Rev. James Hall, has been tied to potentially questionable spending by the Urban Affairs Coalition, a non-profit with links to state Rep. Dwight Evans.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Hall and an aide received $365,000 in grant money that was used to fund development of the Courtland Street project.

Project representatives for 1801 Courtland met last week with residents at a meeting called by local activist Curtis McAllister. At it, state Sen. Shirley Kitchen and state Rep. Rosita Youngblood asked for a meeting with Hall “to discuss the development and how it came about,” said Nicetown CDC executive director Majeedah Rashid.

Rashid said the meeting was already scheduled before the Inquirer reported their story on Hall’s possible connection to Evans, so she wasn’t sure what atmosphere the meeting would take on.

“There was nothing negative or anything like that,” she said. “The meeting was to talk about the development and what it could do for the community.”

Attorney Robert Archie, who is representing the plan, declined to discuss details of it when reached at his office this week.

The appeal for needed zoning variances is scheduled for 2 p.m. Wednesday, at 1515 Arch St., 18th floor.

NewsWorks has partnered with independent news gatherer PlanPhilly to provide regular, in-depth, timely coverage of planning, zoning and development news. Contact Amy Z. Quinn at azquinn@planphilly.com.

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