WNCA tables plans for new homes on former Ivy Ridge assisted living site

The sad, sordid history of the former Ivy Ridge Personal Care Center property in Roxborough could literally be wiped off the map if a developer wins approval to build 32 homes on the site.

If approved, the new neighborhood would replace the vandalized, fire-damaged and long-vacant structure where elderly and disabled residents once lived in squalor with a cul-de-sac development of 32 twin homes, called Kingsley Court.

Stephen Goldner, a retired architect and sometime developer, appeared at Monday night’s meeting of the Wissahickon Neighbors Civic Association seeking neighborhood approval for his plans before proceeding to city planning and zoning. He didn’t get it — at least not yet. WNCA members voted to table action until next month, giving Goldner time to meet with neighbors who expressed concerns about the proposal.

The property at 5627 Ridge Ave., actually two parcels totaling about 3.5 acres, is still owned by Villanova socialite Rosalind S. Lavin — federal authorities shut down several personal care facilities she operated — and current city records show $85,000 worth of unpaid taxes since 2009.

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Goldner said he has a $2 million agreement of sale on the property contingent on his development plan being approved, and he would pay the outstanding taxes. It was previously listed for sale at $2.4 million.

Ivy Ridge Personal Care and Lavin became notorious after federal authorities alleged poor treatment of residents, horrifying living conditions and misuse of residents’ disability and Social Security to pay her own salary. In a 2008 Daily News story, Lavin — living a lavish lifestyle including a personal aircraft — claimed she didn’t have enough money to make basic repairs to the facility.

Lavin avoided criminal charges by agreeing to a settlement that banned her from ever owning or operating any facility that provides care to the elderly and disabled, and from ever working with government benefits to those protected groups. She also paid a $700,000 fine. 

But the story didn’t end there: In 2009, a man living in an illegal boarding house operating on the property froze to death in the building, which had no heat.

At the civic meeting Monday night, most neighbors said they looked forward to something new at the site, but there were serious concerns about the number of homes, whether it would add more traffic to an already-busy stretch of Ridge Avenue, and the potential effect on adjacent homes.

“Don’t you think that’s a lot of houses for three acres?” asked Terri Marvasso of Walnut Lane.

Other near neighbors, including Merle Berman of Walnut Lane, had concerns about whether old hardwood trees on the undeveloped part of the parcel would be cleared. Others asked about a closed portion of Kingsley Street to the north side of the new development that is used by neighbors as common driveway behind houses that front Walnut Lane.

The properties are zoned the former R4, now RSA2, which allows single-family detached or semi-detached homes, but Goldner said he would seek variances for a similar designation, akin to R5, because of some differences in lot dimension, setbacks and coverage. Homes on Kingsley Court would be listed at about $325,000, with four bedrooms and two-and-a-half-baths in 2,200 square feet.

Goldner said he has designed or developed infill and standalone home developments around the city, from working as an architect on the Summit Park apartments in the 1960s to a development off Headhouse Square a few years ago. He said he was eager to complete Kingsley Court but only with neighbors’ approval.

“If I get the right kind of vibes, I’ll go on,” he said.

Contact Amy Z. Quinn at azquinn@planphilly.com

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