Sharswood Redevelopment Update: Two Steps Forward, One Sideways
The Philadelphia Housing Authority has some good news on the Sharswood redevelopment front. Then there’s some news that, while not exactly good, can’t be called bad either.
First, the good news items.
PHA announced at the beginning of August progress towards two of the Sharswood/Blumberg Choice Neighborhoods Transformation Plan’s goals: a new supermarket for the underserved neighborhood and a partnership that will both help current homeowners maintain their properties and add new affordable housing to the neighborhood.
The supermarket, an 18,500-square-foot facility, will be operated by Save-a-Lot and located on the west side of Ridge Avenue at Thompson Street. PHA will build and own the building using $4.5 million in funds from non-federal sources. Save-a-Lot will equip and fit out the store under the terms of a 10-year lease agreement.
The new supermarket will have fresh produce, meats, poultry and seafood, all items in scarce supply in the area. Construction is slated to begin in early 2017, with opening set for the spring of 2018.
PHA has also committed to build its new headquarters building adjacent to the supermarket. Final details on the headquarters project have yet to be released but “will be completed soon,” according to a PHA news release.
On the affordable-housing front, PHA has also entered into a partnership with Habitat for Humanity that will help more homeowners currently living in Sharswood to maintain and remain in their homes while also adding to the stock of affordable housing for sale in the neighborhood.
Habitat will expand its existing Sharswood Preservation Home Repair program to cover 30 more homeowners in the neighborhood. So far, the program has performed critical repairs on 11 Sharswood homes, including roofing, heating, plumbing, electrical and interior and exterior structural work.
In addition, PHA and Habitat will jointly develop 20 new homes for sale to low- to moderate-income families, moving up part of a component of the project that had been slated for a later phase. The Housing Authority will strive to give families who were relocated out of the neighborhood and wish to return first crack at the homes.
For both the ownership and repair programs, successful applicants will have to undergo Habitat’s standard evaluation process and make the contributions the organization requires of all participants in its programs. Both programs incorporate Habitat’s “sweat equity” requirement: existing homeowners contribute by helping with the repairs and repaying a percentage of the cost based on a sliding income-based scale, while new homeowners must put in 350 hours of work through a combination of volunteering at Habitat construction sites, participating in required homeowner workshops and volunteering at Habitat’s ReStore, a discount home improvement store on Washington Avenue in South Philadelphia.
In a news release, PHA said that Sharswood residents strongly expressed a desire that Habitat be part of the redevelopment program.
The 20 new homes will be built to Energy Star standards that make them affordable to operate and maintain as well. Construction of these homes, located throughout the redevelopment area, will begin by the end of this year and finish by the end of 2018.
The current projects are being carried out in part with the support of a Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Future phases, however, will require additional funding, the sources of which PHA has not yet completely nailed down. One source available to the agency is the Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grant program, for which this project would be eligible.
The city, however, opted to pass on this year’s funding round for that program. “Based on the award criteria requirements, PHA determined we were not in a good position at this time to be awarded this highly competitive funding grant,” said PHA spokesperson Nichole Tillman.
Specifically, the implementation grant requires that there be an “anchor institution” in the community, and Tillman said none exist at present. “It also required a strong educational component, but with the recent closure of schools in the area, our application would be weak,” she continued. The agency’s new headquarters can play the “anchor institution” role once it is complete, she said, and PHA is also in talks with the School District of Philadelphia aimed at supporting a “high-performing public school” in the neighborhood.
“After the construction of PHA’s new headquarters, PHA would be in a much better position to compete for this funding in future funding rounds in much the same way we worked with the City of Philadelphia and the School District to get the North Central implementation grant,” she said.
In other words, they’re still working on those next phases, and everyone can continue to hold their breath.