Philly fund for razing, rehabbing abandoned properties running out

After more than a decade, time is running out on the city’s Neighborhood Transformation Initiative – and fast. 

The Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority will soon release what boils down to the final budget for NTI, an ambitious program launched in 2001 by former Mayor John Street to tackle blight in bruised slices of the city.

What was once a $297 million program now has $22 million left on the table. All of that must be designated for “shovel-ready” projects with clear budgets by the end of March.

“That may be the renovation of a recreation center. It may be the renovation or the acquisition of a property for an affordable housing project. It may be the environmental remediation of a redevelopment project that’s currently in the works,” said Brian Abernathy, PRA’s executive director.

If there’s any money left over, though Abernathy doesn’t expect that, it’ll be returned to bondholders,

“We’ll also have backup projects. I don’t want to be left holding a bag for a project that failed for one reason or another for circumstances outside of our control,” he said.

About half of the money left – $10.5 million – is sitting in accounts controlled by members of City Council.

As of this week, most had less than $1 million in available funds, though 8th District City Councilwoman Cindy Bass and 1st District City Councilman Mark Squilla have well over that.

Bass, whose district includes Germantown, Mt. Airy and Nicetown, has about $2.28 million. Squilla, whose district includes Center City and Northern Liberties, has about $3 million.

Most of the remaining NTI funds are sitting with various city departments.

Over the years, the program has centered on acquiring properties, demolishing derelict buildings and housing redevelopment.

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