Construction About To Begin On Southwark

Posted: April 06, 1993

It's taken nearly six years, but the Philadelphia Housing Authority is finally about to begin the long-awaited rehabilitation of the Southwark Plaza public-housing development in South Philadelphia.

PHA plans to begin demolishing 12 three-story townhouses late this month - the first step in a $48 million reconstruction of the development at 4th Street and Washington Avenue.

Nearly 900 families were moved out of Southwark in 1987 in anticipation of the reconstruction, which has languished and become the subject of controversy

because of PHA's mismanagement and bureaucratic bickering between PHA and the federal government.

Reconstruction plans are to replace each of the 48 three-story townhouses with two-story townhouses and to rehabilitate the three high-rise towers, only one of which is now occupied.

Many of the tenants relocated from the townhouses to be demolished were moved to vacant units within Southwark. They'll have first crack at the new townhouses. Other families were relocated to public housing developments and scattered site units in other parts of the city.

PHA hopes to finalize a timetable for construction of the new townhouses within the next two months.

Meanwhile, controversy continues to swirl around PHA's plans for the high rises. Many residents want them only to be for the elderly, fearing that allowing families with children as tenants would create crime in the neighborhood. Currently, only one of the high rises is designated for the elderly and it is vacant.

Reality, however, dictates that the 25-story buildings cannot be exclusively for the elderly because PHA does not have enough elderly people on its waiting list to fill them.

Valena Dixon, a spokeswoman for PHA, said the agency plans to keep the elderly-designated high rise for the elderly, and continue using the the occupied high-rise as it has in the past for both elderly and families with children. Dixon said PHA has yet to determine what it will do with the third high rise.

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