The Upper Holmesburg Civic Association wants to know what’s happening at the former Liddonfield Homes public housing site. That is, as soon as something happens.
For now, though, any redevelopment of the longtime neighborhood eyesore is just in the preliminary stages, UHCA president Stan Cywinski said during the civic group’s monthly general meeting on Oct. 20.
The Philadelphia Housing Authority, which owns the 32-acre site at Torresdale Avenue and Megargee Street, issued a request for proposals on Oct. 3. The civic group learned of the RFP on Oct. 18, just one day before PHA hosted a pre-bid conference for prospective buyers of the property. Due to the short notice, the UHCA didn’t make the meeting.
According to Cywinski, bids are due by Dec. 1.
“This is probably going to be one of the biggest things we’ll have to deal with in our lifetime. It’s a big complex and we have to be on top of it,” the civic leader said.
The RFP is about 180 pages and features several elements that work in favor of neighbors and others that may work against their vision for the site.
PHA has “suggested” the site be developed into 12 acres of “market rate senior housing” and 20 acres of recreational/commercial space. According to Cywinski, those uses fit right in with what the UHCA has formally endorsed.
However, potential buyers may propose other uses and PHA may accept them. The fear among many neighbors is that — considering PHA’s role as a provider of subsidized housing — the project may turn into another low-income project, albeit one with single family dwellings rather than the old military-style apartment units that used to occupy the site.
The land may be sold as one parcel or split into multiple parcels. Meanwhile, PHA may choose to offer the site to one bidder, to decline all bids or to offer the site to multiple bidders in a composite proposal.
These options could delay the process indefinitely, according to Cywinski. Several years ago, PHA issued an initial RFP seeking a combination of housing uses, but the housing market bust drastically altered the economics of the site and viability of the proposals. Since then, PHA has demolished the old apartment buildings with the help of state funding and put a fence up around the empty property.
According to a source familiar with the RFP, representatives from the proposed SportsZone development attended the pre-bid conference.
As reported previously in the Northeast Times, SportsZone is a Northeast-based partnership that wants to build a combination multi-sports and retail facility. It would feature indoor soccer, basketball, lacrosse and other sports facilities, along with accessory pro shops, eateries, meeting spaces and offices. The UHCA has specifically endorsed the proposal and its creators. Also, Holy Family University has previously expressed an interest in the site. University officials have not specified their concept publicly, but if the school moved its athletic facilities to the site, that would leave more space for educational and residential development on the main campus at Frankford and Grant avenues.
• In unrelated UHCA business, Cywinski announced that neighbors have organized a beef ’n’ beer fund-raiser in memory of UHCA board member Paul Kauffman on Friday, from 8 p.m. to midnight, at St. Dominic’s Marian Hall, 8532 Frankford Ave. Proceeds will benefit efforts to erect a memorial to Kauffman at Trumbette Playground. Tickets cost $35. Kauffman died in August at age 78.
• The UHCA will hold a tour of the old Holmesburg Prison and luncheon at the Ashburner Inn on Saturday. The luncheon starts at 11 a.m., followed by the 1 p.m. tour, which will feature historical presentations about the prison site. The cost is $15 and space is limited.
To register for the event, visit www.upperholmesburg.com
• The Upper Holmesburg Civic Association’s next meeting will be on Thursday, Nov. 17, at 7 p.m., at St. Dominic’s Marian Hall, 8532 Frankford Ave. ••
Reporter William Kenny can be reached at 215-354-3031 or firstname.lastname@example.org