Agreement reached on PHA development near old potter's field

Posted: February 28, 2014

A two-year stalemate over the redevelopment of the Philadelphia Housing Authority's Queen Lane property occupied by a potter's field in the 18th century is finally over.

The authority has entered into an agreement with neighbors and other stakeholders, promising to take special measures if any human remains are unearthed during construction. That includes "reinterring" remains, Kelvin Jeremiah, PHA's president, said Wednesday.

The agreement was signed by PHA, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Pennsylvania historic preservation officer, and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.

The block used to be the location of a potter's field for "Strangers, Negroes, and Mulattoes." The burial ground dated back as far as 1775.

The 16-story building on the 300 block of West Queen Lane has been shuttered since 2011. PHA wanted to demolish the high-rise and replace the development with 55 low-rise units along the perimeter of the block.

Some neighbors viewed the land as sacred ground. Because the project received federal funds, PHA was required to spend more than $1 million to conduct an archaeological study of the land to determine the boundaries of the graveyard.

No remains have been found at the site, Jeremiah said.

Once HUD approves the demolition of the high-rise, PHA will be able to begin the $29 million project, he added.

Responding to local concerns, the authority changed its original design by not putting any housing along Queen Lane. This will give the public a way to access the open space where the graveyard once stood.

Yvonne Haskins, a lawyer and member of Northwest Neighbors of Germantown, said neighbors are happy there is an agreement, but would like a better sense of how PHA plans to commemorate the site's historical significance.

"We want something that invites people to use it," she said. "There's been no word on that."


jlin@phillynews.com

215-854-5659215-854-5659  @j_linq

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