Redevelopment of former Liddonfield Homes moves forward

The long-awaited redevelopment of the former Liddonfield Homes public housing project will move a step closer to reality this week when the Philadelphia Housing Authority and NewCourtland Inc. agree to terms for the reuse of the 32-acre parcel.

City Councilman Bobby Henon broke the news during the monthly meeting of the Upper Holmesburg Civic Association on Dec. 15, stating that PHA and NewCourtland had reached a verbal agreement and would formally sign the deal this week. Henon said that NewCourtland would be available to present more details, including its anticipated construction schedule, at an upcoming UHCA meeting. The civic group meets on the third Thursday of the month at St. Dominic’s Marian Hall at 7 p.m.

NewCourtland’s conceptual plans include housing for low-income seniors, a senior services center and athletic fields that would be primarily used by sports teams from Holy Family University. Henon credited the civic association’s strong advocacy for desireable reuses of the site, which abuts Torresdale Avenue, Megargee Street, Cottage Street and the rear of residential properties along Tolbut Street.

“Everybody from 2011 to this date has told me how important it is to develop something responsible,” Henon said.

The councilman added that NewCourtland intends to work with community leaders to ensure that the construction plans meet their approval.

“Finally this thing is going to happen,” UHCA President Stan Cywinski said. “I see this as a great partnership that’s starting, (including) a tie-in with Holy Family.”

The property transfer is not a simple cash-for-land transaction. As the landowner, PHA conducted a months-long bidding process in which the public agency sought outside proposals for the land’s redevelopment within specific parameters. PHA required that a portion of the site be reserved for low-income senior housing. Bidders were also instructed that community support would be a factor in the evaluation process.

In April, PHA awarded development rights to NewCourtland, which operates other senior service centers in the Northeast and Northwest portions of the city. Within the last year, the agency opened a senior center at Roosevelt Boulevard and Harbison Avenue. Next month, it will break ground on another new center and low-income senior housing at the site of the former St. Bartholomew School in Wissinoming.

Since April, PHA and NewCourtland have been negotiating terms for the Liddonfield redevelopment. Ultimately, NewCourtland will own and manage the senior center and residences. The athletic facilities are expected to include a softball diamond and rectangular field suitable for soccer, field hockey or lacrosse. Details about the ownership, management and community access to the athletic fields have not been disclosed.

Separately from his announcement about Liddonfield, Henon presented the civic association with a $1,200 grant from the activities fund allocation for his 6th council district.

Also during the meeting, managers of the neighborhood’s new PJP Marketplace thanked residents for welcoming the business to the community. The marketplace opened at 8914 Frankford Ave. earlier this month, a space formerly occupied by Food Basics.

A primary theme of the comments by Director of Operations Mark Basher was that individuals and families can do their grocery shopping there although the signage identified the business as a “foodservice superstore,” suggesting that it’s more of a business-to-business operation.

Indeed, PJP sells products in bulk quantities and equipment to food service operators such as restaurants, caterers and bars. But individuals can shop there, too, without a membership or business contract. The store has 40,000 square feet of floorspace.

“We have everything for the home and business,” Basher said. “We have smaller sizes for individuals and larger sizes.”

The store has dry goods and perishables like dairy products, fresh meats and produce. It offers prepared foods like rotisserie chickens and sells wine and beer in bottle, six-pack and 12-pack quantities. Alcoholic beverages are not sold by the case.

The store accepts personal credit cards and Access cards. It offers discounts for police, firefighters and seniors. It’s open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday to Saturday and 8 to 8 on Sunday. ••