Developers finally make progress in rehabbing Osage Pine homes; 2 already sold

"It's sad it took this long, but that's another story."

Cherri Gregg
August 15, 2018 - 6:39 pm
Developers completed four of the 36 homes slated for rehab in the Osage Pine community — and two homes have already been sold.

Cherri Gregg | KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Three decades after the MOVE tragedy resulted in the loss of 11 lives and 61 homes, the neighborhood is finally getting a fresh start. 

Developers completed four of the 36 homes slated for rehab in the Osage Pine community — and two homes have already been sold.

Hardwood floors, quartz countertops and stainless steel appliances are just the beginning of the transformation for homes in the neighborhood. Homes on these blocks have been blighted and vacant since the 1990s after the city bought out dozens of homeowners as a result of a botched rebuild effort.

"It's unfortunate what we saw," said Jim Robertson, co-owner of AJR Endeavors, the private developer selected by the city to complete the project. "We had to tear off all the roofs to the sky, essentially, fully gut and rebuild everything and start over."

RELATED: Osage Pine residents still demanding city hire federal agency to rebuild community

AJR Endeavors used private funding to fix the homes, replacing much of the wood beneath the walls, electrical, plumbing, HVAC units and more. In order to deal with rumors and ill feelings from the prior developer's shoddy construction dating back to the 1980s, AJR had to employ community outreach to the residents.

"We wanted to make this an open and transparent process for the community," he said. "This was done with the highest quality with enormous layers of oversight."

"It's beautiful. I think they did a good job," said Esther Hubbard, a longtime resident of Osage Avenue. 

She was part of the group of Osage Pine homeowners who recently asked the city to employ the Army Corps of Engineers to oversee the rebuild project. Gerald Renfrow, president of the Osage Pine Community Association, said they did not trust the process given the city's history with the community. The city refused to bring in the Army Corps, but cited an alternative form of oversight.

"We are making sure there are a lot of eyes on this project so that we ensure that the construction is done right," said Gregory Heller, executive director of the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority.

He said they hired a full-time quality inspector who has gone through Army Corps training. He noted the agency communicates with AJR daily.

"We are keeping close watch," said Heller. "I feel confident in the quality of the work that is being done."

City officials and community leaders toured three of the completed homes on Wednesday. One home was fully furnished to give residents the feel. 

The homes are 2,000- to 2,300-square-feet with four bedrooms, two and a half baths, backyard decks, and finished basements. Each unit is priced beginning at less than $250,000.  

Developers completed four of the 36 homes slated for rehab in the Osage Pine community — and two homes have already been sold.
Cherri Gregg | KYW Newsradio

Developers completed four of the 36 homes slated for rehab in the Osage Pine community — and two homes have already been sold.
Cherri Gregg | KYW Newsradio

Developers completed four of the 36 homes slated for rehab in the Osage Pine community — and two homes have already been sold.
Cherri Gregg | KYW Newsradio

"We reviewed the previous engineering reports that assessed damage that occurred," explained Anthony Fullard, co-owner of AJR. "We want this to be of the highest quality."

The developers said there's a 10-year abatement approved for the properties, which could make the monthly mortgage about $1,400 a month — a price less than the cost to rent a four-bedroom in the area.

"I am pleased to see that out of tragedy beautiful things can happen," said Councilwoman Janie Blackwell, who represents the Cobbs Creek area on Philadelphia City Council. "I think we'll finally heal; I think this community will finally come together and love one another and move forward."

RELATED: After 40 years in prison, first member of MOVE 9 is free

Longtime resident Sherry Williams was cautiously optimistic.

"We'll see how everything goes and how everything holds up," she said. "It's sad it took this long, but that's another story."

For now, residents hope the progress on the Osage Pine rehab is step toward a positive future. All 36 homes are expected to be complete by the end of next year.