Redeveloper of ex-Liddonfield project to be named

Residents of Upper Holmesburg could soon learn the identity of the organization that will get the next crack at redeveloping the former Liddonfield Homes public housing project.

Stan Cywinski, president of the Upper Holmesburg Civic Association, said during his group’s monthly meeting last Thursday that the Philadelphia Housing Authority could announce the winning bidder for the long-delayed Liddonfield redevelopment next month. PHA’s board of commissioners is scheduled to meet on Nov. 19 at 12 S. 23rd St. Cywinski understands that the board could vote formally on the bidding process then. The board meeting is open to the public and scheduled to start at 3 p.m.

The 32.1-acre tract at Torresdale Avenue and Megargee Street has been the subject of a bidding process among prospective developers since PHA issued a so-called “request for quotes” in May. PHA, which owns the site, has not disclosed publicly how many developers submitted plans, although two known bidders have presented their concepts directly to the UHCA.

The civic organization has endorsed a proposal offered by New Courtland Inc. that includes senior housing and athletic fields. The plan is similar to one proposed by a different development team under a previous bidding process, a project that ultimately failed to materialize because the parties involved couldn’t agree on financial terms.

A second bidder, Diamond and Associates, also met with the UHCA to propose older-adult apartments, including units for independent and assisted living. The civic association did not endorse that proposal in part because it covers only 12 acres and does not account for the remaining 20 acres.

The Liddonfield site has been of serious concern to neighbors for decades. As an apartment complex for low-income people, the site became notorious as a high-crime area and center of illicit drug activity. The housing project was built in 1955 and expanded in ’68. At its peak, there were 464 housing units in single-story and two-story buildings. PHA phased out the facility and in 2010 demolished the buildings with the help of millions in state funding.

PHA launched a bidding process soon after and in 2012 agreed to negotiate the sale of the property to a partnership of builders, who were planning to build retail shops and some form of housing and athletic facilities for Holy Family University. But the sale was never completed. After giving the developers numerous extensions, PHA finally ended the negotiations in January.

In other business:

• The UHCA approved a plan by the owners of the Ashburner Inn to legalize a parking lot on the 4600 block of Ashburner St. Zoning attorney Shawn Ward, who represents the business, said that the lot would have 21 parking spaces, an entrance on Ashburner Street, a “shadow box” fence around the perimeter and landscaping along Ashburner and Wingate streets. The owners plan to install lighting. They plan to pave the lot unless the city requires otherwise for better storm drainage.

• Chris Creelman, chief of staff for City Councilman Bobby Henon, invited residents to attend Opera Philadelphia, a celebration of National Opera Week at the Devon Theater, 6325–43 Frankford Ave., on Saturday, Oct. 24, from noon to 1 p.m. Tickets are free to the public and available at Henon’s office, 6730 Torresdale Ave., or by calling 215–683–9221.

• UHCA board member Crystal Eiswert reminded residents that Nov. 15 is National Recycling Day. In conjunction with that, the civic association is trying to get a speaker from the Philadelphia Streets Department to discuss recycling at the next UHCA meeting on Nov. 19 at St. Dominic’s Marian Hall. Start time is 7 p.m. Henon has blue city recycling bins available for free at his Torresdale Avenue office.

• The UHCA gained a new business member in RB’s Chocolate Revenge at 8733 Frankford Ave. RB’s sells custom chocolate creations.

• Creelman reported that Henon has proposed an ordinance that would ban truck parking on Torresdale Avenue between Linden Avenue and Megargee Street, as well as on Megargee from Torresdale to Frankford Avenue.

• Officials from the Holmesburg Fish and Game club reported that about 100 new members signed up for the group during an open house last month. The club at 5100 Pennypack St. has the only outdoor shooting range in the city. ••