Liddonfield demolition to begin by August

Upper Holmesburg residents have been waiting for the demolition of Liddonfield for five years. The civic association has worked with police, politicians and the Public Housing Authority over the years when problems have cropped up, and recently established its own committee to oversee the demolition and transition process.

And though the announcement at last night’s meeting of the impending demolition  from Richard Zappile, chief of police for PHA was music to residents’ ears, those who’ve been fighting Liddonfield for the last five years want to make sure the new homes aren’t host to the same problems.

“The community is a large part of this,” said Zappile that PHA homes often raise neighborhood property values because of their innovative design and clean appearance.

Many details about what will replace the housing project remain undetermined, like for example the ratio of rental properties versus purchased properties. But Zappile, who could only answer security, not developmental questions, said those issues will be addressed.

  • Some of the concerns Zappile promised to take back to the director of development for PHA are:
  • Is there asbestos in the buildings and will the demolition affect it?
  • What will the maximum income level be for residents?
  • How many, if any, of the trees on the property will be spared?
  • What will the new properties look like?

Among the things Zappile promised to look into are the holes in the construction fence that currently surround the property, where residents say drug users get into the now-empty lots. But the PHA security will end once the new houses go up.

After demolition is complete, the 8th District will be in charge of patrolling the area as part of the neighborhood. Though the PHA is “electronically connected” to the District, as Zappile put it, only if a PHA home requires an investigation will the PHA police get involved.

And while nearby residents are concerned they’ll be dealing with the same old problem once the structures are up, Zappile said he’s optimistic. Not only will the new homes be “not characterized as PHA” because of their design, he said, but other PHA developments such as Martin Luther King in South Philadelphia and West Philadelphia’s Lucien Blackwell have lower crime districts than their surrounding neighborhoods.

Moreover, Zappile said, PHA residents undergo financial screenings. Those looking to buy homes as part of new development — many of whom are first-time buyers — will have to meet with a financial adviser to be sure they understand the monetary responsibilities of owning a home.

What’s important about the project, said UHCA President Stan Cywinski, is that “the people who live there will have a financial stake in the property. We have that working in our favor.”

Also at last night’s meeting…Zoning was approved for 8729 Frankford Avenue for a sign and two stores in the Washington Savings Bank shopping center. The stores, which have been on the property for several years, need to be legalized since the previous shopping center owner did not follow proper zoning procedures. The sign, which will be six feet off the ground so as not to interfere with traffic, will feature the names of all the stores in the strip, including a new locally owned pharmacy…Board members and residents are looking to get more proactive in their approach with drugs, which is becoming a bigger problem in the area around Ditman Street near Ashburner and Blakiston streets. Unsatisfied with the 8th District officers who haven’t shown up to UHCA meetings, President Stan Cywinski said he’ll reach out Capt. Deborah Kelly, and to Councilwoman Joan Krajewski, Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and District Attorney Seth Williams if necessary.

The Upper Holmesburg Civic Associatio will next meet in September, with guest State Rep. Mike McGeehan.

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