Queen Lane Apartments decision still feeling government-shutdown aftereffects

 The fate of the Queen Lane Apartments tower in Germantown remains in limbo. (Bas Slabbers/for NewsWorks)

The fate of the Queen Lane Apartments tower in Germantown remains in limbo. (Bas Slabbers/for NewsWorks)

The fate of Queen Lane Apartments, a shuttered public housing high-rise in Germantown, remains in limbo due to last month’s partial government shutdown.

During the 16-day standoff, essentially all employees of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) were furloughed. As a result, work tied to a critical legal agreement was halted until the sun set on the shutdown.

Remaining hurdles

Officials with the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA) want to tear down the 16-story structure at West Queen Lane and Pulaski Ave. and replace it with a new, low-density development with 55 rental units. The agency cannot move forward with the project until a mandatory historical review of the site is completed.

A programmatic agreement is one of the final steps of the federal process, called a Section 106 Agreement. The legal document maps out what actions will be taken going forward if any historic resources are found either during additional archaeological digs, during demolition or construction.

PHA has vowed not to build within the boundaries of a colonial-era Potter’s Field burial ground which sits beneath the site. Digs and surveys at the site did not turn up any human remains.

Delay specifications

The deadline for comments from four signatory agencies — HUD, PHA, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office — and others was originally set for Sept. 23.

It was expected that the programmatic agreement would be finalized 30 to 60 days from that date. It’s unclear where that timeline now stands.

“We are still in the process of collecting comments from the consulting parties on the programmatic agreement,” said Niki Edwards, a HUD spokesperson.

PHA was expected to decide in October whether it would demolish the tower or simply rehab it.

Kelvin Jeremiah, PHA’s executive director, told NewsWorks in early September that the agency was “seriously considering” the latter because it would be a cheaper and faster means of providing much-needed housing.

PHA spokesperson Glynnis Richard said Monday that there “has been no movement on the Queen Lane project. We are still waiting on HUD.”

Community response

During Northwest Neighbors of Germantown’s winter meeting, held Monday, group president Lisa Hopkins reiterated that Queen Lane Apartments must be demolished.

“If they don’t take the building down, we’re ready to protest like it’s the 1960s,” said Hopkins.

If PHA moves forward with the new development, the project would be slated to wrap up midway through 2015.

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