Development firm proposes senior housing for Liddonfield site

A real estate development firm specializing in senior housing unveiled its proposal for the former Liddonfield Homes site last Thursday during the monthly meeting of the Upper Holmesburg Civic Association.

Skeptical neighbors seemed generally intrigued with the presentation.

Roy Diamond, president of Diamond and Associates, led a team of executives who detailed a plan to redevelop 12 acres of the 32-acre site as an apartment complex for older adults with units for both independent and assisted living. The plan calls for between 200 and 240 single-bedroom units in a trio of three-story L-shaped buildings, along with parking lots, green space and walking paths.

Diamond brought a PowerPoint presentation and colored architectural sketches to the civic meeting, yet he conceded that his company’s proposal was still in the conceptual phase. He offered to work with neighbors to hammer out some details before submitting a formal bid on the property to the Philadelphia Housing Authority.

“Please tell us what you’re looking for and we’ll try to incorporate it into our proposal,” Diamond told the civic group.

PHA, which owns the tract at Torresdale Avenue and Megargee Street, has given prospective developers until July 7 to submit plans as part of a “request for quotes.” The housing agency announced the RFQ publicly on April 21 with an original deadline of May 21, only to extend the deadline.

The agency declared it was seeking proposals for the construction of 300 housing units for low-income seniors on the 12-acre portion. The agency made no specific request regarding the other acreage, stating only that it seeks proposals for the “best use.”

Neighbors balked at the thought of so many housing units on such a small parcel, noting that the former public housing project had about 450 units covering all 32 acres.

The civic group took no official position on Diamond’s numbers. But residents made it clear that they refuse to accept anything resembling a PHA-style housing project.

“We have no desire for low-income housing, other than senior housing,” said Paul DeFinis, the UHCA zoning chairman.

Diamond has eyes only on the 12-acre portion and has no designs on the other 20 acres.

“What we know how to build is senior housing,” the company leader said. “Our idea is to lease to people in the community 55 and over and to reserve some (units) for people with disabilities.”

Diamond proposes to obtain a long-term lease for the land from PHA. His company would build and manage the site. Inglis would provide services to special-needs residents, while Intercommunity Action would oversee adult day services that would be available to older folks in the surrounding community. Each building would have a services center and community room.

Architect George Marks highlighted exterior design components emphasizing variation, resembling the townhomes on surrounding blocks. The facades would be off-set and feature different colors and materials.

Residents raised questions about water drainage, parking volume, fire safety and site security, among other issues. Stan Cywinski, the UHCA president, was also focused on prospects for the 20-acre portion of the tract.

“That’s going to be a problem because that leaves an open issue with PHA and us,” he said. ••