Redevelopment of former Liddonfield site delayed

The plan hasn’t changed, but the timeline is going to take a bit longer than expected: that was the message that City Councilman Bobby Henon delivered to members of the Upper Holmesburg Civic Association during the group’s monthly meeting last Thursday.

Henon was speaking about the much anticipated redevelopment of the former Liddonfield Homes public housing project at Torresdale Avenue and Megargee Street.

In January, a Henon aide and state Rep. Mike Driscoll each reported to the civic group that the Philadelphia Housing Authority’s approval of a redevelopment plan was imminent. That plan — which has been endorsed by the civic association — involves the construction of several hundred housing units for low-income seniors, a senior center and athletic facilities for Holy Family University. NewCourtland Senior Services would be the lead developer on the project.

But PHA, which owns the 32-acre Liddonfield site, took no action on the proposal during the authority’s monthly board of commissioners meeting earlier last Thursday. Board approval is required for any redevelopment of the site to move forward.

According to Henon, PHA and the prospective developers are still ironing out the specific language of a contract that would provide the framework of the project. The contract would conclude a bidding process launched by PHA last April seeking proposals for re-use of the 32-acre tract. PHA did not disclose how many prospective developers submitted proposals.

NewCourtland was one of two bidders that presented their plans to the civic association. The other bidder detailed its concept for a senior housing development on a 12-acre portion of the site, but did not incorporate the remaining 20 acres into its proposal.

NewCourtland has said it plans to invest $50 million into the site, including about $10 million to build two NCAA-caliber athletic fields. Holy Family would lease the fields and would further offer $1 million in scholarships over 10 years to local students attending the university, according to UHCA President Stan Cywinski. NewCourtland has agreed to give local seniors first option of occupying the new residences.

In an unrelated community issue, Henon said that city health inspectors have issued six violations to Britton Industries at Torresdale Avenue and Tolbut Street after neighbors complained about odors emanating from the site. Britton operates a landscape materials supply yard, storing various mulches, soils, crushed concrete and other materials in open-air piles that tower dozens of feet above the ground.

Neighbors have complained for months that dirt from the piles has been blowing onto their homes and coating them with a layer of grit. Also, the organic materials on the site have been causing airborne odors, neighbors say. In response, Britton officials said they would move the odorous piles to the rear of their property — away from Torresdale Avenue and closer to Interstate 95 — Henon and Cywinski claim. But that doesn’t seem to be working to neighbors’ satisfaction.

Henon said last week that he would continue to ask Britton to resolve these problems. If they persist, additional enforcement could lead to legal action from the city and a potential shutdown of operations, the councilman said. ••