PHA planning for yearlong housing boom The authority has plans to construct 300 units in a year, and private firms could add hundreds more.

Posted: November 28, 2006

For the Philadelphia Housing Authority, the days of leveling old, crime-infested high-rises and replacing them with townhouse developments is over, at least for now.

But if all goes as planned, the year ahead will see construction of more than 300 housing units by the agency - as well as the private development of several hundred long-promised, market-rate homes on what once was PHA land.

The authority's own projects, which also include two office buildings, carry an estimated price tag of $117 million, with the private ones slightly costlier.

Carl R. Greene, executive director of the housing authority, noted that his agency is "doing all this at a time of decreasing federal funding."

In recent months, Greene has been trying to mobilize his counterparts in Pennsylvania and throughout the Northeast to pressure Congress to provide more federal dollars. Unless additional money is forthcoming, he says, his agency and others will be looking at layoffs and reduced services for the residents of public housing.

The new PHA housing will come at four sites.

Already under construction are 28 homes at the Falls Ridge site overlooking Kelly Drive in East Falls. Completion of those homes will fill in the vacant lots in the housing authority's development there, a project that has been over a decade in the making. The homes are to be sold on a subsidized basis.

In January, PHA is scheduled to break ground on the first of 160 scattered-site homes in the Ludlow section of North Philadelphia. These homes, about half of which are to be available for sale, will be financed through federal tax credits and funds from the HOPE VI program of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

In February, officials say, construction is to begin on 80 additional homes, rentals all, in West Philadelphia's Marshall Shepard Village. The construction area, in the blocks near 41st Street and Haverford Avenue, is near one of the authority's showcase developments, the Lucien E. Blackwell Homes.

In March, ground is to be broken on Nellie Reynolds Gardens, a 64-apartment seniors building at 25th and Norris in North Philadelphia, next to the authority's Johnson Homes.

Two private developments on what used to be PHA property also are moving forward, officials said.

Westrum Development Co., of Fort Washington, already has begun work on what it is calling Hilltop at Falls Ridge, 128 townhouses to be built on a tract adjacent to the authority's Falls Ridge site.

Prices for those houses start in the mid-$300,000 range. Westrum purchased the land from PHA for $2.8 million in a transaction completed earlier this year.

And the authority anticipates that the DePaul Group, of Blue Bell, will break ground in the spring or summer on a 275-home development in South Philadelphia. The homes will be built near the Schuylkill Expressway on the site of the old Passyunk Homes, a barracks-style project that was demolished in 2002.

DePaul agreed in February 2005 to purchase the 55-acre tract for $4.25 million. Officials from the group could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The housing authority also is planning to erect an office building on the Passyunk Homes site and another across the expressway in its new Greater Grays Ferry Estates.

Contact senior writer Larry Eichel at 215-854-2415 or leichel@phillynews.com.

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