Liddonfield development is still up in the air

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.up­per­holmes­

• 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

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