The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has granted Philadelphia $30 million to help build 1,200 homes for low-income residents centered on the site of the former Norman Blumberg Apartments public-housing complex.
The grant will enable the Philadelphia Housing Authority to tap more than $200 million to continue work toward what it’s calling its Sharswood Transformation Plan, covering an area bounded by 19th and 27th Streets and Girard and Cecil B. Moore Avenues in North Philadelphia, the agency’s president and chief executive, Kelvin A. Jeremiah, said Monday.
“This is great news for Philadelphia during these challenging times,” Jeremiah said. “This essentially guarantees the work that started nearly four years ago will be completed.”
The PHA’s Sharswood plan was conceived to preserve affordable housing in an area that sits in the path of gentrification, between the rapidly changing Brewerytown and Francisville neighborhoods and the expanding student zones of Temple University.
Work on the project began in 2016 with the demolition of the Blumberg Apartments, three high-rises and a cluster of low-rise buildings that had long been a symbol of the area’s deep poverty and crime. The PHA used eminent domain to acquire nearly 1,300 surrounding properties for inclusion in the redevelopment.
PHA has already completed 140 single-family homes as rental units and finished the redevelopment of the one Blumberg tower that was left standing, which houses seniors in 94 units. PHA also relocated into a new $45 million headquarters on Ridge Avenue as part of the plan and helped launch Vaux Big Picture High School in the neighborhood.
The new $30 million HUD grant was among $130 million awarded this month through the federal agency’s Choice Neighborhoods Initiative program. Funds from the program are meant to serve as down payments toward revitalizing disused public-housing properties and their surrounding neighborhoods.
Other funding went to projects in Fort Worth, Texas; Los Angeles; and Winston-Salem, N.C., HUD said in a release.
“Today’s Choice Neighborhoods awards will provide a transformational investment in these neighborhoods,” HUD Secretary Ben Carson said in the release.
In Philadelphia, the grant will allow PHA to “leverage” an additional $211 million to complete the Sharswood plan, Jeremiah said. The money will come from investment through the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit program, public-purpose bonds, the PHA’s capital budget, and other city sources.
Jeremiah said the agency is also on track to close next month on the first phase of a $51 million deal involving a private investor — whom he said he could not yet identify — so work could begin in June on a commercial plaza with a grocery, bank, and restaurant on Ridge Avenue beside its new headquarters.