Groundbreaking event marks ceremonial start of $22m PHA project in Germantown

For three years, the Queen Lane Apartments site was the epicenter of community friction in southwest Germantown. On Sept. 13, it was consumed by a dust cloud as the 16-story, 59-year-old public-housing structure was imploded. But on Wednesday, the cleared lot at West Queen Lane and Pulaski Ave. hosted a celebration.

Standing near the back of a white tent during the Philadelphia Housing Authority’s Queen Lane ceremonial groundbreaking event, Hakim Aleem held a document that put everything in context.

It was the 1955 “dwelling lease” that, signed by his mother, established a direct link from Wednesday to when the building had first opened.

“This is a rebirth,” Aleem said just after 18 shovels dug into the ground not far from the site’s Penn Street border. “This was a very tight, close-knit community back then, a place where you wanted to grow up.”

Corliss Gray had lived across the street from the high rise for much of its existence, so she knew the location in its prime and decline.

“Hallejuah! Our day has come!” she told the assembled crowd. “I’m so glad to see everybody coming together. No more fighting. Let’s go ahead and get this job done.”

What it all means

The Queen Lane Apartments tower was reduced to rubble to clear way for the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA) plan to build a low-density development featuring 55 rental units, while keeping green space to acknowledge an on-site burial ground with a historical marker.

Artist renderings of future development were on display at an event which featured speeches from PHA President/CEO Kelvin Jeremiah, Mayor Michael Nutter (who was given a cinderblock souvenir), U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, state Rep. Rosita Youngblood and City Councilwoman Cindy Bass.

On stage, Nutter touted Fattah’s quarter-century old suggestion to move away from high-rise public-housing projects. He also thanked the neighborhood for its active engagement throughout the process.

“The community was 100 percent right, and I’m glad that we listened to you,” he said, referring to effots regarding the Potter’s Field burial ground.

Nutter also positioned this project as a jumping-off point for its area.

“There are a lot of different things going on in a positive way in Germantown,” he said, “and this project could be a significant turning point to inspire more activity.”

Bass echoed those sentiments.

“Germantown is rising,” she said, “and we’re not going to let anybody tell us any differently.”

The $22 million project has a projected “Winter 2015” completion date.

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