Final PHA meeting before Queen Lane Apartments implosion a cause for celebration

 The sun reflects off a Queen Lane Apartments tower that is scheduled for implosion on Sept. 13. (Aaron Moselle/WHYY)

The sun reflects off a Queen Lane Apartments tower that is scheduled for implosion on Sept. 13. (Aaron Moselle/WHYY)

At around 6 p.m. Thursday, a dozen residents huddled with Philadelphia Housing Authority staffers outside of Mt. Moriah Baptist Church.

The gutted skeleton of the soon-to-be-demolished Queen Lane Apartments rose behind the group.

A photographer stood before them, there to capture a small piece of history before the fourth and final community meeting about the impending implosion got underway.

“The next [time] we meet, the high-rise will be gone,” said Michael Johns, PHA’s senior executive vice president for capital projects and development. “And you guys got us here.”

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The timeline

At 7:15 a.m. on Sept. 13, Queen Lane Apartments will be reduced to rubble after more than a half century of towering over Germantown.

The approximately 14-second implosion will come about three years after PHA first publicly presented the project to neighbors.

Not long after the agency met with residents, a Potter’s Field was discovered beneath the site. Neighbors wanted to preserve and honor the colonial burial ground created for “all strangers, Negroes, and Mulattoes [who] die in any part of Germantown forever.”

PHA ultimately agreed not to build atop of the cemetery, a decision which added a complex layer to a historical-review process that had to be completed before HUD could accept an application for demolition approval.

After the implosion

A new low-rise development featuring 55 rental units will replace the 16-story tower.

Construction on the $22 million project is expected to start sometime this fall and last a year.

The community — and PHA — couldn’t be happier.

As Thursday night’s meeting wrapped up, residents and agency employees patted one another’s backs for reaching this moment after what was, at times, a tough and contentious process.

“It’s been a long time coming and a blessing,” said Johns.

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