Community leaders digging Wissinoming projects

Two major construction projects are underway in Wissinoming and community leaders are excited about the possibilities.

Speaking during the monthly meeting of the Wissinoming Civic Association on Sept. 27, the group’s president, John Barnes, reported that work crews have begun to demolish the former Ocean Desert warehouse at Harbison Avenue and Tulip Street, as well as the former St. Bartholomew School at Harbison and Jackson Street.

As previously reported in the Northeast Times, the Ocean Desert site will be converted into a shopping center featuring a ShopRite supermarket, and a Super Wawa, along with other shops or restaurants. At the St. Bart site, NewCourtland Senior Services will build an apartment building and day center for older folks.

“It’ll be the only supermarket in Wissinoming. You’ll be able to shop without leaving the neighborhood,” Barnes said of the Ocean Desert project. “We’re hoping to add a bank, possibly. And it will bring a lot of jobs.”

Plans for the 12-acre site include 110,000 square feet of retail space. It will be called the Shoppes at Wissinoming. The project will create 250 construction jobs and an estimated 500 permanent jobs. The Ammons company will operate the ShopRite and employ 300 of those workers.

The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation and J.P. Morgan Chase have helped to finance the $30 million project, which is a partnership among ARC Properties, The Dreher Group and FC Development Group. The developer has not announced an anticipated completion date.

At St. Bart’s, NewCourtland’s plan is to demolish the former school and construct in its place a 173,000-square-foot building to house 144 residences, a senior center and ground-level parking. The project does not involve St. Bartholomew Church or the parish’s former convent. The private owners of the former convent are also exploring redevelopment options.

The parish school closed in 2005 and later housed a charter school that closed abruptly in October 2014 amid allegations of mismanagement. The church itself has long been rumored to be in jeopardy of closing due to declining membership and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s financial problems. Barnes understands that the NewCourtland deal has helped to solidify the parish’s standing. Terms of the property sale have not been disclosed.

“It saved the parish from closing. It’s a lifeline for the parish,” Barnes said. “The sale of that property was huge to keep the church open.”

In unrelated business:

• Joe Hohenstein, a Democrat candidate for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, asked residents to support his challenge for the 177th district seat long held by Republican John Taylor. Hohenstein said he is an immigration attorney who advocates for domestic abuse and crime victims, asylum seekers and those facing deportation. He prioritizes more corporate taxation, equitable education funding, pay equality, abortion rights and environmental protection.

• The civic association plans to march with a local Boy Scout troop in the Mayfair-Holmesburg Thanksgiving Parade for the third consecutive year. The parade is planned for Nov. 20 on Frankford Avenue. Community members are invited to join the civic group’s entry.

• The civic association is planning its annual tree lighting at St. Bart’s on a Saturday in December after afternoon Mass. All faiths are invited to take part in the multi-denominational holiday celebration, which will feature seasonal beverages and treats. A date has not been finalized.

• The Wissinoming Town Watch seeks new volunteers who are willing to patrol neighborhood streets as eyes and ears for police. The group will meet on Oct. 17 at 7 p.m. at True Vine Community Church, 4610 Devereaux St.

• For information about the Wissinoming Civic Association, follow the group’s Facebook page. A new WCA website is in development. ••