The white teddy bear was left behind by a previous occupant in the rowhouse that Glenn Mancini started to renovate last year at 2020 Master St. The bear holds a heart that promises, "You are special." It sits alone in the gutted first floor as a mocking reminder.

"I couldn't get rid of it," Mancini said.

He had plans for 2020 Master and the neighboring house at 2022. Mancini submitted those ideas to the Philadelphia Housing Authority, the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority, and City Council President Darrell L. Clarke's offices.

Mancini, a small developer based in Harrowgate, saw opportunity in the Sharswood section of North Philadelphia. He invested about $75,000 of his own funds in 2020 Master. He hoped to rent the first two floors and move into the third floor with his fiancee.

Those plans are now scuttled.

Soon, the PHA will own his two properties, and 1,300 others in the neighborhood, through the process of eminent domain.

The agency offered Mancini $5,500 for each building.

These were "estimates of just compensation" - the market value PHA assigned to the homes. Mancini, 53, is in disbelief.

"I mean," he said, "the front steps are probably worth more than $5,500."

That value is not obvious from the exterior. Those steps are crumbling. Above the door, the first 0 in 2020 is missing. Both houses need work. Lots of work.

Accused by Sharswood residents of decades of neglect, the PHA plans to build 1,203 new homes. Most will be low-income housing. Concerned residents, some of whom are still waiting for the PHA's offer, have criticized the project as a government landgrab. Others are happy to leave a blighted neighborhood - for the right price.

"We are trying to transform and have the greatest impact . . . ," PHA president Kelvin Jeremiah said. "Given the level of vacant and abandoned homes, we didn't want it to be piecemeal."

The offers for 833 private properties have trickled in this month. The PRA, acting on behalf of the PHA, determined that people are living or have businesses in 73 of those properties.

A property owner can seek another appraisal or file an appeal, which can be costly. It is a process that, for now, has left Mancini's business in limbo. Too much is plowed into this investment, he said.

For 25 years, Mancini has restored buildings around the city. His gripe with the PHA is simple: "Why are they not working with people who are doing the same thing they are doing?"

Mancini has pleaded his case for removal from the eminent-domain list. He provided receipts in February that documented his expenses. He installed a new roof and structural joists. He replaced floors. He dug farther down in the basement. He had two large trees removed. He added 12 custom-made balusters on the staircase.

Mancini expected to spend about $150,000 to rehab 2020 Master before starting a similar project at 2022. In comparison, it costs the PHA more than $300,000 to build one affordable home.

He bought in Sharswood because it was an area he could afford. (He spent $13,000 to purchase 2020 and $12,000 for 2022.) His fiancee, Xin Lu, has also invested money.

"I didn't see it as a risk," Mancini said. "I didn't see the neighborhood getting worse."

On Feb. 10, Mancini purchased new triple-pane windows and doors for $4,695, his ledger shows. A week later, Mancini contacted PRA officials to provide an update of work completed. Tracy Pinson-Reviere, a project manager at the PRA, told Mancini she advised the PHA of Mancini's plans.

"At this time, please keep working and continue to proceed as plan," Pinson-Reviere wrote in a Feb. 26 e-mail. "Keep cost documentation as proof of costs expended this way you will be fairly compensated. Thank you."

Mancini does not expect sympathy - not as someone who recently arrived in the neighborhood. He hopes for fairer compensation from the government.

Five police officers lined the Robert Morris School auditorium for a February community meeting with housing officials. The same message - do not stop work - was relayed to worried residents.

"In hindsight," Mancini said, "maybe we shouldn't have trusted them."

215-854-2928 @MattGelb