The Philadelphia Housing Authority’s redevelopment of the nearly 60-year-old West Park Apartment Complex is becoming a unique piece in the city’s recent history of public housing.
In the mid-20th century, federally-backed government agencies built a series of residential lots around high-rise towers.However tower in the park architecture Since the 1960s, fashion has become obsolete. In recent decades, most of the towers have been demolished and often replaced by townhouse developments.
When the Housing Authority announced it would put up for sale one-third of West Park’s 12-acre site in 2020, including two of its three towers, it was widely assumed to follow a similar strategy. .
But housing authorities and their partners, including nationally renowned New York-based L+M Development Partners, seem to have other things in mind. They hope to rectify mistakes in the old plans by reconnecting the site to the road grid and building a residential mixture in between.
It also wants to pursue “redevelopment of existing towers” rather than demolition, as stated in the state funding application.
“If they haven’t actually demolished the two towers, that’s a big deviation from what they did.” [elsewhere]said Jenna Collins, an attorney with Community Legal Services who has followed the PHA’s plans closely. “I’m surprised to hear they plan to keep all three of her towers.”
The Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA) said the proposal, a collaboration between LMXD, an affiliate of L+M that specializes in mixed-income projects, and New York-based M Squared, has not been approved by the board. and here are the details: Still subject to change and even wholesale refusal.
The redevelopment proposal will total about 1,000 homes instead of the 327 units that were in the tower. A spokesperson for LMXD confirmed that units will come in a mix of low-rise “flats,” renovated multi-family homes in towers, and new “from scratch” senior housing. LMXD says 60% of units will be affordable, but doesn’t specify how it measures that.
“Affordable housing is not the same as the low-income housing that was in those towers,” Collins said. “Some of what is defined as ‘affordable’ was out of my reach. I’m a lawyer.”
Funding will come from a combination of various other sources, including tax-exempt bonds, project-based Section 8, and subsidies from local market rate units.
A spokesperson for LMXD said low-rise and number of units in new construction are PHA requirements, with more density and height being preferred.
One of the towers will be for senior housing for low-income residents, as PHA originally intended, but it is not yet clear how the other two high-rises will be used.
They will likely target mixed-income tenants and may include units that are affordable replacements for very low-income residents who have moved out of the tower. It would also be a departure from previous practice. PHAs have historically preferred to build new housing in the form of townhouses for their poorest residents.
Westpark’s future looks different than initial proposal for site sale triggered in 2020 Protest from West Philadelphia City Councilman Jamie Gautier.
PHA president just six weeks before pandemic-inspired shutdown Kelvin Jeremiah said“We’re looking for the best and the best uses, whatever that means for prospective buyers.”
Repairing the tower cost $50 million. This is equivalent to his one-year capital budget for the housing authority. His idea was to sell two of them to raise the money needed to fix a third senior home.
The newly elected Gautier then used one platform in one of his maiden speeches at the council to denounce the profit-first redevelopment plan.
Emily Dowdall, policy director for the Redevelopment Fund’s policy team, said, “It’s unusual for aldermen to be deeply involved in redeveloping public housing.” [Council’s] PHA is exhausting. [the agency] You have the power to decide what you can do with your own property outside of the city process. ”
But Jeremiah responded to this unusual intervention by having Gauthier sit on a panel to consider another proposal. We said we would provide the unit.
“This is a very large piece of public land. Don’t sell it. We should own it,” Gauthier said in a recent interview. “We chose L&M because they offer the most affordable housing available outside of one-to-one housing.”
There were four major proposals. The only one from a local developer Philadelphia-based Post Brothers had planned to replace the tower units with affordable condominiums for current residents and add about 1,000 market-rate units to the site. Some stakeholders, including West Park tenant representatives, supported the idea.
But Gauthier wanted a more subsidized unit in this corner of western Philadelphia, adjacent to University City’s ever-expanding footprint and the accompanying rise in housing prices.
“Don’t replace public housing one-for-one. If we were building these other units, we also have a responsibility to make sure they work. [affordable, too]’ said Gauthier. “If there is public land on which you can define your neighborhood, you should take ownership of it.”
LMXD and housing authorities are negotiating the details of the unit count and affordability combination. But plans are already underway in at least one way. All tenants have moved out of the tower.