“No commitments” yet for PHA Liddonfield property

Last night’s Upper Holmesburg Civic Association meeting drew nearly 100 people, as representatives from the Planning Commission and Public Housing Authority were scheduled to speak.

Ian Litwin, the Commission’s community planner for parts of the Northeast, was the highlighted guest, as the meeting is the first of many to address how Upper Holmesburg fits into the Philadelphia2035 plan.

But five representatives from PHA also stopped by to hear concerns, specifically regarding Liddonfield. The low-income development has been demolished, but residents want to know what’s coming next.

PHA has “no commitments to do anything at the site,” said Michael Johns, head of community planning design at PHA. Johns faced many questions from residents about what’s planned for the Liddonfield property and what will happen in the meantime.

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Johns explained that because PHA’s two applications for a HOPE VI (a public housing grant) grant to rebuild were not rewarded, there aren’t solid plans to construct more homes. He said a senior development — much to the delight of neighbors — has been considered, and went on to say that PHA solicited ideas from outside investors for alternative uses of the site, but nothing came of any of those proposals. He mentioned several times being in talks with representatives from the Philadelphia Sports Zone, which is proposing a health and sports zone at Torresdale Avenue and Tolbut streets.

Maggie Coughlan Fulmer, John Dunlop and Tony Parson of the Sports Zone were also at last night’s meeting to talk directly with Upper Holmesburg residents about how their proposal fits in with the Planning Commission’s initiative.

As residents gathered around eight large neighborhood maps, ideas centered mostly around creating active spaces for kids, reducing traffic and working toward common solutions for the mostly auto-oriented businesses that dot Frankford and Torresdale avenues. And of course, what to do with Liddonfield.

Johns emphasized that PHA has no plans yet for the site, but that until it does, the property will be “stabilized” and will remain a grass lot secured by a fence.

UHCA President Stan Cywinski said the civic has Sen. Mike Stack, Councilwoman Joan Krajewski and Rep. Mike McGeehan on its side in the Liddonfield planning.

“Any time there was a plan or potential plan for that site, we’ve been included,” Cywinski said of Liddonfield. “Nothing will happen there unless we want it to happen.”

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