PHA considers Liddonfield proposals

Late last year, the Philadelphia Housing Authority issued a Request for Proposals for the redevelopment of the 32-acre site of the former Liddonfield Housing Project in the Northeast Philadelphia neighborhood of Upper Holmesburg.

The former low-income housing project—which was developed by PHA initially in 1955—has been demolished, and the site has sat empty since last April.  

The RFP deadline was extended once from November 1 to December 1, 2011, then again to January 6, 2012.

According to the RFP, the decision from the PHA review committee that will select the eventual developer is based 30 percent on “Financial Return to PHA and/or commensurate benefit to PHA.” Another 30 percent of the decision is based on the “Quality of the Site Plan and Development Program,” with 25 percent based on the “track record” of the developer, and 15 percent on employment opportunities for PHA residents, and minority- and women-owned business participation.

In an interview with PlanPhilly three weeks ago, PHA representatives Nichole Tillman and Gemela McClendon said they expected a decision from the review committee in about two weeks. Reached again on Monday, Tillman said that the committee met late last week to review the proposals, but couldn’t say whether they had come to a decision.

Neither Tillman nor McClendon would comment on the nature of the proposals PHA had received. But according to Stan Cywinski, president of the Upper Holmesburg Civic Association, a majority of the 20 proposals PHA received in response to its RFP were related to developing more low-income housing.

Cywinski and others in the neighborhood, however, want to see the Liddonfield site repurposed.

“We’d love that parcel to be reincorporated into the surrounding community and zoned the same way,” Cywinski said.

Currently, the parcel is zoned R-11A, a low-density multifamily residential classification. The surrounding neighborhood is zoned R-9A, a single-family classification.

Cywinski—along with his and other area civic associations, Councilman Bobby Henon, and U.S. Representative Bob Brady—is supporting a proposal from Holy Family University to build athletic fields, retail units, and an assisted-living facility on the parcel.  

Cywinski said that Liddonfield and the surrounding neighborhood deteriorated in the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s with an increase in violent crime and drug activity.

“The community in general took a hit because of the way [Liddonfield] was managed,” Cywinski said.

Cywinski said the Holy Family development would improve the surrounding neighborhood and create a new destination in Upper Holmesburg. He said that any low-income-only development, no matter how it is designed, would be seen as a project separate from the surrounding neighborhood.

“When you look down the road and you see the possibility” for future development if Holy Family takes over Liddonfield, Cywinski said, “It all made sense.”

But despite the wide support, PHA is not bound to choose Holy Family.

Community support is not listed as an official criterion for the review committee to consider in choosing a developer, but the committee does often take it into account, according to Housing Authority spokeswoman Nichole Tillman.

Additionally, Cywinski told the Northeast Times recently that he believes other responders have made higher bids than Holy Family.

The RFP describes two “Sale Scenarios.” In the first, a developer would propose a project which would utilize the entire parcel. In the second, the plot could be split into an east and west parcel and sold to separate developers. Holy Family’s proposal would fall under the first scenario.

In the RFP, the Housing Authority says it “will use reasonable efforts to act as an advocate for the selected project and will assist the successful respondent in obtaining necessary public approvals such as securing any necessary zoning.”

But for now, at least, PHA is keeping mum about which proposal it will choose. PlanPhilly will update this story as Liddonfield plans are announced.

Contact the reporter at jaredbrey@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @jaredbrey

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