PHA approves Northeast land deal with Holy Family

Posted: July 22, 2012

At its monthly board meeting Friday, the Philadelphia Housing Authority approved a deal for Holy Family University and a development partnership to convert 32 vacant acres in Northeast Philadelphia into athletic fields, university housing, and affordable senior apartments.

About two-thirds of the land - formerly the Liddonfield public-housing complex - will be used for four athletic fields for the private, Catholic university, which has its main campus on Torresdale Avenue.

Charles Calvanese, one of the partners in the project, said the development group needed to complete negotiations with PHA on details of the project.

As a result, he said, he could not say when construction would begin but added, "We're ready to go right away."

Calvanese estimated the project would be built over several years and eventually would cost $100 million. The athletic fields alone will cost between $6 million and $8 million, he said.

City Councilman Bobby Henon, who spoke at the PHA meeting, called the project "a game changer for Northeast Philadelphia."

The project has three main components: recreational fields, university housing and other buildings, and 50 to 60 units of affordable senior housing.

Calvanese said PHA had requested that the project include an affordable-housing component for lower-income senior citizens.

The developers, ABS-A Joint Venture L.L.C., will collaborate with the religious order that operates Holy Family to build the project. The joint venture will pay PHA $4.2 million for the parcel and contribute more than $1 million in scholarships.

Holy Family has committed to giving full scholarships to four students annually for 10 years.

The developers also have proposed using $550,000 of the development costs in connection with efforts to employ public-housing residents.

Founded in 1954, Holy Family is run by the Congregation of Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth. It has more than 3,000 undergraduate and graduate students at campuses in Northeast Philadelphia and in Bensalem and Newtown Townships in Bucks County.

Calvanese said the long-term goal was to include some small shops and eating establishments in the project.

Contact Jennifer Lin at 215-854-5659,, or follow on Twitter @j_linq.

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