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PHA breaks ground on massive new North Philly housing project

The Blumberg-Sharswood housing project is being hailed as the biggest project in the agency's history.

Officials broke ground on a new housing project in North Philly, even as locals expressed concerns with the ongoing effort to relocate residents of the decaying towers that will be replaced and to buy out more local properties in the project's footprint.

The final plan for Blumberg-Sharswood calls for a 1,200-unit housing project. Right now, the Philadelphia Housing Authority is planning to begin the first phase, building 57 units on a budget of $21 million.

PHA tenantNaomi Day, 57, said she was positive on the project, but that she was distressed over the fact that she needs to relocate from a two-story home to an efficiency apartment and had to sell appliances that she bought with her own money.

"It's good that they're tearing this place down," Day said."But I don't think they have our best interests at heart... you're uprooting us from our homes."

Related link:North Philly Peace Park tries to start over after PHA swap

Martin Rembert, 42, is a resident of a nearby home who owns a property the PHA is trying to take using eminent domain. He says they haven't offered a fair price.

"I think the development's great," Rembert said. "However, I think what they're offering the landowners there is actually disrespectful, for lack of a better term."

Rembert said he's been offered less than half of the appraisalhe got onhis property at23rd and Sharswood. He's appealing the use of eminent domain.

"Thearea needs development ...but they’re not offering nearly what they should for the properties," he said."If they were fairer to the people residing there,this would be a win-win. You don’t want to do something like this and leave a bitter taste in people’s mouth."

PHA president Kelvin Jeremiah said these types of concerns are part of the process, but said that all current PHA residents who are being moved will get no homes of equal value. He also said he's confident that PHA will successfully complete itseminent domain seizures by the time they get to that phase of construction.

Related link: Video: PHA implodes Queen Lane tower

"I am very confident that we'll be able to secure the properties that we need," Jeremiah said. "The property that we need for the first phase is already in PHA's ownership."

Asia Coney, the resident advisory board president, said locals' concerns will be addressed if theyattend PHA meetings and educate themselves about the project.

"Attend the meetings, read the materials, stay involved ...Make sure we deliver what we say we are going to deliver," Coney said.

 

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