The agency has partnered with CBRE to take bids on 12 – acre University City Property
(PHILADELPHIA- October 8, 2019) – The Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA) is selling a portion of one of the agency’s older sites with plans to use the sales proceeds toward rebuilding the remaining part of the site. The West Park Apartments, built in 1964, sit on a nearly 12-acre, increasingly valuable parcel on the perimeter of University City.
“Because we have open space on the site we will be able to replace every one of the outdated and deteriorating high-rise apartments with modern homes that we believe our residents will be proud of and that will enhance the entire neighborhood,” said PHA President and CEO Kelvin A. Jeremiah. “We think taking advantage of the property’s rising value to help meet our need for affordable housing is an ideal solution.”
There are currently three buildings on site with a total of 327 apartments. Making the necessary electrical, plumbing, HVAC, elevator, masonry and other repairs would cost upwards of $50 million. Those repairs would make the buildings serviceable but would not bring them up to modern standards. In addition, in keeping with older style public housing, the site is separated from the surrounding neighborhood, with only one vehicle entrance onto the property.
Under PHA’s redevelopment plan one high-rise will remain standing and be completely rehabilitated as senior housing. The other two towers will be sold and replaced on another section of the property by an equal number of townhomes and stacked apartments (flats). The land being sold – covering an area between 44th and 45th Streets just north of Market Street – covers the eastern third of the property.
Andrea Foster, who has been the site’s resident council president since 1987, said she and most residents support the plan. “The buildings are deteriorating and the money they would have to sink into these buildings could be used to build new homes,” she said. “There will be some inconvenience for families having to move and then return but it will be worth the trouble to come back to new homes.”
As PHA has done at other rebuilt sites, the agency would reconnect the site to the city’s street grid so that it would no longer be isolated.
PHA has hired CBRE, a commercial real estate services and investment firm and CVA Commercial Group, to market the property. The company’s sales materials note that the site’s neighbors include the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University, suggesting potential uses such as student housing, athletic dormitories, multi-family apartments and senior housing.
“The explosive growth of University City to the east has been rapidly progressing in a western trajectory, steadily marching toward this property,” said Vincent J. Jolly, Jr., CVA’s founder and CEO. “To the west, the redevelopment of the adjacent Provident Mutual Insurance Building at 4601 Market further illustrates the exciting investment and momentum in the community. Add to that all the growth activity among Penn, Drexel and University City Science Center and you can see why West Park represents an ideal development opportunity. “
“It is excellent that PHA is tapping into the energy of the very hot University City and West Philadelphia real estate market for the benefit of West Park residents,” said City Councilwoman Jannie L. Blackwell, in whose district the property falls. “Congratulations to Kelvin Jeremiah and the PHA staff for devising an innovative plan to transform the property.”
The property is located in a Qualified Opportunity Zone, a designation that includes tax incentives to encourage long-term investments in low-income communities.
“You don’t often get a chance to design a deal that works so well for all concerned,” the PHA’s Jeremiah said. “We have found a way in this proposal to serve the needs of residents of public housing and the broader community at the same time.”