PHA agrees to maintain outdoor space near Queen Lane apartments site

They came ready for a fight, but walked away with a compromise.

On Thursday, Germantown residents packed courtroom 414 in City Hall for the start of a trial aimed, on paper, at saving Wissahickon Playground. 

The historic, roughly one-acre plot near Pulaski Avenue and Penn Street was dismantled to make way for a now under-construction public housing development. That was done illegally, according to a civil complaint filed in Common Pleas Court in March.

Four hours later, though, a temporary settlement had been reached with the Philadelphia Housing Authority that, if finalized, will give birth to a pair of recreation spaces near the former home of Wissahickon Playground and, perhaps, more.

A “state of the art” basketball court is proposed for a city-owned lot on Newhall Street. A children’s playground, or “tot lot,” is proposed for a private, residential parcel at the corner of Penn and Morris Streets. The owner has verbally agreed to donate the vacant land to the city.

Both spaces, about a quarter-acre combined, are less than a block away from where Wissahickon Playground once stood.

Both projects would be completed over the next year with the help of up to $500,000 from PHA’s operating and capital budgets. PHA’s board approved those funds a little over a week ago during its May board meeting.

The city would maintain the court and the playground, which would each close before 10 p.m.

The deal is, for the time being, a relief for PHA, who is spending $24 million to redevelop the former home of Wissahickon Playground and Queen Lane Apartments. After nearly six decades, the 16-story high-rise was imploded. A 55-unit, low-density development will replace the tower.

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