Sharswood residents return home after $28 million tower upgrade

Ricardo Wilson moved into his unit in the new Sharswood Tower in North Philadelphia this week. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Ricardo Wilson moved into his unit in the new Sharswood Tower in North Philadelphia this week. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

This article originally appeared on PlanPhilly.

Kenneth Miller shouted at the elevators on the 11th floor of the newly renovated Sharswood Tower in North Philadelphia.

“Can we get the elevator?” he cried. “We live here!”

The 67-year-old returning tenant with stents in his legs was trapped. But, unlike in years past, he didn’t have a broken elevator to blame.

“That’s all they’re doing, running up and down,” he said, referring to the gaggle of reporters, politicos, and civic gadflies there to celebrate the building’s $28 million makeover. “And people got to get in and out.”

The 13-story high-rise is all that remains of the Blumberg Apartments that were razed in 2016. Miller and his neighbors moved out of the Philadelphia Housing Authority development prior to the demolition. He returned Tuesday, the day before the PHA press conference.

Miller moved back to a building zhuzhed up with new appliances, new flooring, fresh paint and other upgrades.

The Philadelphia Housing Authority unveiled the new public housing tower in North Philadelphia (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

“This is not, by any stretch of the imagination, your grandmother’s public housing,” said Kelvin Jeremiah, PHA president and CEO. “It represents a new kind of affordable housing that allows seniors to age in place and to lead their lives with dignity, a place where anyone, and absolutely anyone, would be proud to call home.”

The reopening of the tower continues PHA’s 10-year, $500 million effort to redevelop the Sharswood-Blumberg section of the city. The authority broke ground on Blumberg 83, and opened its new headquarters on Ridge Avenue in the months leading up to the opening of the senior tower.

PHA has invested close to $150 million into the redevelopment so far, Jeremiah said.

But regardless of these efforts and his fresh digs, Miller had a few bones to pick.

Adhesive or plaster left behind by contractors marked up the hardwood — or hardwood-styled — floors in his 11th-floor unit.  He tried to remove the marks to no avail, he said.

Then there’s the chipped finish in the bathtub, dead electrical outlets, and difficulty getting the cable hooked up, he bemoaned.

“In the meantime, I’m staying at somebody else’s house,” Miller said.

Thirty-one people have returned to the 94-unit building so far, and PHA expects the building to be fully occupied by the end of April. Other former tenants looking to return at a later time can still do so, PHA officials said.

Down the hall from Miller, Ricardo Miller and Andrea Goode said they were happy to be back in their one-bedroom unit. PHA had temporarily relocated them a two-bedroom, second-floor unit at Queen Lane Apartments in Germantown during the tower’s redevelopment. They probably would’ve stayed, but 67-year-old Miller had a hard time going up and down the stairs.

“The last place, those steps were really killing him,” said Goode.

The couple said their new Sharswood Tower unit is a definite upgrade.

“The only thing I’m disappointed about was they promised us a dishwasher,” Goode said, laughing. “I don’t like washing dishes. But other than that it’s good. It’s good, absolutely nice.”

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