Let the Liddonfield bidding begin

Holy Fam­ily Uni­versity is in­ter­ested in ac­quir­ing the former pub­lic hous­ing com­plex.


With the dead­line for bids on the former Lid­don­field Homes pub­lic hous­ing com­plex loom­ing, a neigh­bor­hood civic group last week shif­ted its own lob­by­ing ef­forts in­to high gear.

In a mass e-mail dis­trib­uted on Dec. 27, the Up­per Holmes­burg Civic As­so­ci­ation en­dorsed what it re­ferred to as “the de­vel­op­ment and re­vital­iz­a­tion of the [Lid­don­field] site by the ex­pan­sion of Holy Fam­ily Uni­versity.” The mes­sage fur­ther urged re­cip­i­ents to sign an at­tached pe­ti­tion and re­turn it to the civic group by Jan. 5.

The bid dead­line for the Lid­don­field site is Jan. 7.

The Phil­adelphia Hous­ing Au­thor­ity owns the 32-acre prop­erty at Tor­res­dale Av­en­ue and Megar­gee Street. Last year, PHA de­mol­ished the low-in­come apart­ment build­ings on the site and is­sued a re­quest for pro­pos­als seek­ing private-sec­tor bids on the prop­erty. The RFP re­com­men­ded that po­ten­tial bid­ders pro­pose a com­bin­a­tion of res­id­en­tial and sports/re­cre­ation­al uses for the site.

Ac­cord­ing to UHCA pres­id­ent Stan Cy­w­in­ski, Holy Fam­ily Uni­versity has teamed with a res­id­en­tial build­er, a re­gion­al health-care pro­vider and oth­ers to for­mu­late a pro­pos­al suit­ing the RFP re­quire­ments and the com­munity’s in­terests.

The pro­ject would in­clude as­sisted liv­ing fa­cil­it­ies, ath­let­ic fields and re­tail de­vel­op­ment along Tor­res­dale Av­en­ue, Cy­w­in­ski said. Holy Fam­ily would man­age the fields, while the health-care pro­vider would man­age the new homes.

“We thought that would be a good fit for our neigh­bor­hood, more than seni­or hous­ing,” Cy­w­in­ski said. “We feel it would be good for us and be a cata­lyst for ad­di­tion­al de­vel­op­ment along the Tor­res­dale Av­en­ue cor­ridor.”

Holy Fam­ily Uni­versity was closed for its hol­i­day break last week. De­tails about its spe­cif­ic ob­ject­ives were un­avail­able.

In a prin­ted state­ment, Sis­ter Francesca On­ley, the uni­versity pres­id­ent, said, “A group of de­velopers re­cently in­vited Holy Fam­ily Uni­versity to col­lab­or­ate re­gard­ing pro­posed re­devel­op­ment of the former Lid­don­field Homes pub­lic hous­ing site. We are ex­cited about the pos­sib­il­ity of com­munity par­ti­cip­a­tion in po­ten­tial re­cre­ation­al fa­cil­it­ies and a deep­en­ing of ties between the uni­versity and the com­munity.”

Cy­w­in­ski said that he is un­able to name the build­er be­cause the bid­ding peri­od has not con­cluded. Lead­ers of his or­gan­iz­a­tion have met with the build­er, uni­versity of­fi­cials, loc­al elec­ted of­fi­cials and lead­ers of oth­er civic as­so­ci­ations to dis­cuss the Holy Fam­ily-af­fil­i­ated bid.

Cy­w­in­ski fur­ther said that the RFP re­quires that bid­ders sub­mit let­ters of sup­port and com­munity en­dorse­ments “en­closed in the bid for [PHA] to ac­cept them.” So cir­cu­lat­ing the pe­ti­tion last week be­came cru­cial to meet­ing the Jan. 7 bid dead­line.

An­oth­er sports/re­cre­ation pro­pos­al called the SportsZone is not part of the Holy Fam­ily-af­fil­i­ated bid, al­though the Up­per Holmes­burg civic group pre­vi­ously had en­dorsed it. One of the ar­chi­tects of the SportsZone concept, Mag­gie Cough­lan, told the North­east Times that she was un­aware of the civic group’s new pe­ti­tion. Early last year, she said, the UHCA col­lec­ted 400 to 500 sig­na­tures on a pe­ti­tion fa­vor­ing the SportsZone pro­pos­al.

Cough­lan said she plans to move for­ward with her group’s plan for a multis­port, in­door-out­door sports and re­cre­ation cen­ter with ac­cess­ory re­tail busi­nesses.

Cy­w­in­ski doesn’t think the Up­per Holmes­burg civic group has shif­ted its al­le­gi­ances.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a de­vi­ation,” he said. “Mag­gie Cough­lan from SportsZone ini­tially brought us the concept of bring­ing a sports com­plex to the com­munity. They wanted to do it across the street [from Lid­don­field], then Lid­don­field be­came avail­able.

“It was a good concept, but we all knew — mean­ing the civic as­so­ci­ation — that this was go­ing to bid and that it would be a com­pet­it­ive en­vir­on­ment.”

Cy­w­in­ski ad­ded that the key ele­ment of the Holy Fam­ily-af­fil­i­ated plan is his or­gan­iz­a­tion’s be­lief that it would pro­mote ad­di­tion­al private com­mer­cial de­vel­op­ment along Tor­res­dale Av­en­ue, while giv­ing neigh­bor­hood youths ac­cess to col­lege-level ath­let­ic train­ing.

“Sis­ter Francesca [On­ley, the uni­versity pres­id­ent] said we would have some ac­cess to the fa­cil­it­ies,” Cy­w­in­ski said.

The new pe­ti­tion fur­ther states that the uni­versity would bring “a safer, clean­er cam­pus” to the site.

Ac­cord­ing to the terms of the RFP, the com­munity has a minor­ity in­flu­ence in the bid pro­cess, al­though oth­er factors in­clud­ing eco­nom­ic vi­ab­il­ity of a bid and pro­posed uses of the site weigh more in the bid se­lec­tion pro­cess. PHA also may opt to re­ject all bids and with­draw the RFP.

The Lid­don­field site is ex­pec­ted to be a top­ic of con­ver­sa­tion at the next gen­er­al meet­ing of the UHCA on Thursday, Jan. 19, at 7 p.m., at St. Domin­ic’s Mari­an Hall, 8532 Frank­ford Ave. ••


You can reach at wkenny@bsmphilly.com.

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