Another affordable housing phase begins in 10-year transformation of Sharswood/Blumberg neighborhood

Cherri Gregg
December 04, 2018 - 3:17 pm
The Philadelphia Housing Authority broke ground Tuesday on its third phase of a 10-year transformation of the Sharswood/Blumberg neighborhood of North Philadelphia.

Cherri Gregg/KYW Newsradio

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NORTH PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The Philadelphia Housing Authority broke ground Tuesday on its third phase of a 10-year transformation of the Sharswood/Blumberg neighborhood of North Philadelphia, where residents are eager to move back in.

Located at 22nd and Oxford streets, the Blumberg 83 Apartments will include 83 affordable rental units, including townhomes, multi-unit walk-ups, and flats — a far cry from public housing of the past.

Five years ago, the 2200 blocks of Oxford, Jefferson and Bolton streets were the site of three monstrous apartment towers, which housed 1,500 people in a crime-ridden super block.

"Imagine three buildings having so many people, all of whom were poor," said Philadelphia Housing Authority CEO Kelvin Jeremiah.

"Before, this place around here was crazy," said Rupert Alston, who lived in Sharswood for 35 years. He was there when the Philadelphia Housing Authority took over 1,300 parcels of mostly city-owned property and demolished two of the tower-style apartment buildings, which helped transform a crime-ridden ghetto into a choice neighborhood.

And Alston was there Tuesday when officials shifted the dirt of the foundation for the new Blumberg 83 Apartments.

"We see a lot of commercial investment come in. We are creating a balanced community where folks of all income levels will want to live," Jeremiah added.

A rendering of one of the apartment buildings as part of the 10-year transformation of the Sharswood/Blumberg neighborhood.
Cherri Gregg/KYW Newsradio

A rendering of one of the apartment buildings as part of the 10-year transformation of the Sharswood/Blumberg neighborhood.
Cherri Gregg/KYW Newsradio

The first phase added 57 units in 2016, followed by the renovated Vaux Big Picture High School on Master Street near 23rd Street. 

Later this month, the new 135,000-square-foot Housing Authority headquarters will open, and the new senior housing will be done next year. The 10-year, $500 million project is slated to include 1,200 total units.

Councilman Darrell Clarke noted property values are going up fast.

"If you don't move quickly, you will be left out," he said.

"It's been hard; vicious, too," admitted Alston. "I tell you right now: Where I am, I don't like it." Alston was moved to Wilson Park four years ago, but he will finally see the culmination of the transformation when he moves into his new apartment in February.

"I just can't wait," he said.