There’s a new player in the stalled redevelopment of the former Liddonfield Homes that the Upper Holmesburg Civic Association hopes will be a catalyst for the long-sought transformation of the longtime public housing project.
Center City-based NewCourtland Senior Services has been in negotiations to become a partner in the delayed redevelopment project, according to the nonprofit’s vice president of marketing and government affairs, Pam Mammarella, who spoke at the UHCA’s general meeting on Sept. 18.
The Liddonfield site is at Torresdale Avenue and Megargee Street and includes 33 acres of open space. Specifics of NewCourtland’s involvement have yet to be determined, so Mammarella did not have many details to disclose.
Yet, she said that NewCourtland’s organizational mission is to provide home- and community-based services to seniors, particularly through Pennsylvania’s Living Independently For Elders (LIFE) program. The agency also seeks to provide affordable housing for seniors.
“Three years ago, we decided the real need was to develop programs that could help people stay in their communities,” Mammarella said. “We turned our mission to building affordable senior housing that is supported by services.”
NewCourtland has been providing services in various forms to Philadelphia’s older populations since the Civil War era, she explained. Originally, the agency worked with patients at Presbyterian Hospital in University City. When the University of Pennsylvania acquired the hospital in 1965, the proceeds were used to create the Presbyterian Foundation for Philadelphia, of which NewCourtland became and remains a subsidiary. The foundation is historically affiliated with but has no official ties to the Presbyterian church. NewCourtland receives much of its funding from state and federal government programs.
In 1995, recognizing the growing senior population in the region, NewCourtland expanded its efforts beyond the hospital to acute-care nursing homes. In 2011, the agency again modified its mission to focus on an aging-in-place model, which emphasizes the delivery of services to seniors in their homes and communities.
“Our program reduces nursing home utilization,” Mammarella said.
The LIFE program is Pennsylvania’s version of the federal Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE), which is unrelated to Pennsylvania’s prescription drug program for seniors that also uses the “PACE” acronym. NewCourtland already operates two LIFE centers in the city at 6950 Germantown Ave. and 1940 W. Allegheny Ave., while providing services to folks 55 and older in 12 ZIP codes mainly in North and Northwest Philadelphia. Services include adult daycare, transportation, meals and nutrition, primary medical care, prescription assistance, dental/vision/hearing/foot care, bathing and dressing assistance and therapy. Pennsylvania recently certified NewCourtland to expand its service area into the Northeast.
NewCourtland would have to assess the specific needs of people in the community surrounding Liddonfield before determining the services it could provide there, including affordable housing options, Mammarella said.
“The housing that we build is for the community that we’re in. It will be independent living, but preference will be given to seniors in need of services,” she said.
Affordable senior housing could fit into the redevelopment model approved by the Philadelphia Housing Authority for the site in July 2012. PHA still owns the site. As part of a proposal and bidding process, the public housing agency agreed to sell the land to a consortium of developers. The bid-winning plan called for the construction of Holy Family University athletic fields on one portion of the land and retail shops and university-style residences on another portion of the land, along with low-income housing for seniors on the remainder of the site. Holy Family agreed to provide academic scholarships to PHA resident students as part of the original deal.
That November, the university produced and posted on YouTube.com a six-minute video of a three-dimensional artist’s rendering of a grandiose campus including the Liddonfield site, as well as neighboring properties with new academic, athletic, student activity and residential buildings. Yet, when asked about their role in the project, Holy Family officials have repeatedly identified the university as a third party and potential end user with no direct stake in the construction. The principal developer, BSI Construction of Bensalem, has repeatedly declined comment on the project.
Stan Cywinski, president of the Upper Holmesburg Civic Association, said he has toured NewCourtland’s other LIFE centers.
“I was very impressed. They are very clean and well-managed,” he said.
In other Upper Holmesburg business:
• Cywinski reported that plans are rounding out for the UHCA’s 10th anniversary celebration and Oktoberfest on Saturday, Oct. 4, from 7:30 to 11 p.m. at St. Dominic’s Marian Hall. Tickets cost $25 each or $200 for a table of 10 and are available by calling 215–990–8128.
There will be a European-style buffet, beer, wine, soda, entertainment and raffle baskets. A lifetime achievement award will be presented to Gus DeFinis, founder of DeFinis State Auto Body. Previously, the group gave the same award to Danny Carboni of Danny’s Flower Shop. ••