Holy Family University set to buy PHA tract in Northeast Philadelphia

Posted: July 19, 2012

Holy Family University could soon take over the 32-acre site of the former Liddonfield public housing project in Northeast Philadelphia to develop athletic fields and university buildings, as well as shops and assisted-living senior housing.

The one-member board of the Philadelphia Housing Authority is expected to vote Friday on a resolution to sell the property to Holy Family, said Nichole Tillman, a housing agency spokeswoman. She did not provide further details.

In an innovative deal, the university would pay PHA $4.2 million, plus make available $1,040,000 in scholarships for PHA students.

Twenty developers submitted plans to PHA for the parcel in Upper Holmesburg, bordered by Megargee, Tolbut, and Cottage Streets and Torresdale Avenue.

The site is nine blocks, or about two miles, from the private Catholic university's main campus at Frankford and Grant Avenues.

Sister Francesca Onley, president of Holy Family, could not be reached for comment.

PHA is under the control of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and has one HUD-appointed commissioner, former Philadelphia Managing Director Estelle B. Richman.

Originally built as barracks in the 1940s, the Liddonfield Homes were converted in 1955 into public housing.

Five years ago, PHA had planned on demolishing and rebuilding the Liddonfield homes into a mix of affordable and market-rate houses. But the project was scrapped because of funding problems.

Instead, PHA demolished the buildings in early 2011 and sought proposals from developers.

Founded in 1954, Holy Family is run by the Congregation of Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth.

The university's plan would include four ball fields; shops and dining spots; and a 50 or 60-bed assisted-living facility for members of the Holy Family religious order.

With 3,184 undergraduate and graduate students, Holy Family is spread across three campuses in Northeast Philadelphia, and Bensalem and Newtown Townships in Bucks County.

The Holy Family proposal had strong community support. The university plans to partner with John Parsons of BSI Construction of Bensalem.

Al Taubenberger, president of the Greater Northeast Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, said the Holy Family project would allow the university to grow and would connect it more to the surrounding neighborhood.

"I'm a big believer in educational institutions doing great things for this community," Taubenberger said. "It would take Holy Family, a great institution, and make it even greater."


Contact Jennifer Lin

at 215-854-5659 or jlin@phillynews.com, or

follow on Twitter @j_linq.

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