PHA opens new headquarters in North Philly, marking major milestone

Cherri Gregg
January 23, 2019 - 4:00 am
The Philadelphia Housing Authority cut the ribbon on its new headquarters on Tuesday, marking a major milestone in a $600 million  investment in North Philadelphia, that is the centerpiece of community change.

Cherri Gregg/KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The Philadelphia Housing Authority cut the ribbon on its new headquarters on Tuesday, marking a major milestone in a $600 million investment in North Philadelphia that is the centerpiece of community change. 

Located at Ridge Avenue and Jefferson Street, this five-story, 136,000 square foot glass building will house the 400 employees with the Philadelphia Housing Authority. The $45 million structure includes an adjacent parking lot and 10 Indego bicycle docks along Jefferson Street.

"Change isn't coming to Sharswood Blumberg - change is here," said Kelvin Jeremiah, CEO of PHA.

He says headquarters property will anchor the Ridge Avenue Corridor, which will soon add 18,000 plus square feet of retail space. It'll including a new Save-A-Lot, an urgent care facility, a hardware store and more, and with so many employees and residents pouring into the area, the block is spurring change.

"We have not seen this level of private and public investment in this neighborhood since the 1960s," said Jeremiah.  

Race riots from the 1960s sent business owners running, transforming a once middle class, professional neighborhood into one riddled with blight and crime. But over the last three years, change has been stark.

With the implosion of the Blumberg Towers, construction has been steady. Nearly 300 of the 1,200 promised affordable housing units are either complete or in progress, and more are in the pipeline.

"There was a lot of people that were very concerned," said Darrell Clarke, Philadelphia City Council President.  He was a major part of the public-private partnership that worked to get the 10 year, multi-phase project on track. Clarke says displaced Sharswood Blumberg residents are getting the choice to return.

"Commitment was there, day one," he said, "promise made, promise kept."

Clarke says public-private dollars, along with the city investment into the new PHA headquarters, will ensure that the revitalization doesn't leave some behind.

"It's really about equality," said Mayor Jim Kenney, "so that the people who live in this neighborhood for generations can have the ability to enjoy the positive change."

Many times, investment leaves low income residents behind as private investors come in, causing higher real estate prices that push poor people out.

"All of a sudden, we looked up and there was hope," said Tom Bello, a member of the Brewery Sharswood Neighbors Committee.

Hundreds of PHA residents were relocated during the construction. As phases are completed, many are taking the agency up on its offer.

"Now we are seeing what the fruit of that labor was," said Bello.

"And this is only the beginning," said Jeremiah.

Last month, PHA broke ground on 83 units on the old Blumberg site. He expects the transformation to be complete in three to four years.