A community garden that has taken root on a once-vacant lot in Philadelphia’s Brewerytown section (Image via VisitPhilly/The Philadelphia Tribune).
By Stephen Williams
PHILADELPHIA — Like other sections of North Philadelphia, Brewerytown has been red hot in terms of new development, for more than decade. Now the Philadelphia Housing Authority is seeking partners to develop about 60 affordable homes in the area.
Lately, developers and residents have been attracted to Brewerytown, because of its restaurants, bars and other attractions. For instance, it is in close proximity to the Art Museum, Fairmount Park, Schuylkill River Trail and a Whole Foods market at 20th and Spring Garden streets.
It also has an established business corridor along Girard Avenue and is accessible by public transportation, such as the 15 trolley on Girard.
Breweytown is roughly bounded by Cecil B. Moore Avenue in the north, Parrish Street to the south, 25th Street in the west and the Schuylkill River in the east.
The PHA is looking for developers to rehabilitate 59 vacant homes in an area between Ridge and Glenwood avenues and 24th and 30th streets. The homes will have between two and six bedrooms.
Under this proposal, the PHA will sell the properties to developers for a nominal fee. In exchange, the developer can sell to families with incomes of up to 80% of the area median income, which in Philadelphia is about $75,000 for a family of four.
“Part of our mission is opening the door to homeownership opportunities for PHA families who have worked hard to raise their income,” said PHA President/CEO Kelvin Jeremiah. “We will expect the chosen developer to work with our homeownership department to seek qualified PHA buyers for these properties while also making them available to the general public within the income guidelines.”
As the state’s largest affordable housing agency, the PHA seeks to mitigate gentrification by creating opportunities for affordable housing in communities where housing prices are rising rapidly.
Under the PHA’s proposal, a developer may propose buying one, some or all seven groups of homes. Once selected, the developer will take control of all aspects of the process, including design, financing, construction, marketing and selling the homes. The PHA said it also expects developers to communicate with community groups in area and other stakeholders.
The homes may not exceed certain limits, for example the highest price for a three-bedroom, is $215,000; and $240,000 for a four-bedroom. Since the homes are being sold at below market-rate prices, they will also be subject to an anti-flipping rule. This means if the homeowners decide to sell, they must sell to a family with incomes at or below 80% of area median income and at the same prices restrictions for the developers.
“This initiative is intended to make newly rehabbed homes available to working families in previously underserved communities, not to be used as a get-rich-quick scheme,” Jeremiah said. “The anti-flipping provision remains in effect for 20 years.”
Nichole Tillman, a PHA spokesperson, said 15 developers attended the meeting about the proposal Dec. 1.
“PHA was happy to see their level of excitement,” Tillman said. “We are looking forward to working with the developers that are ultimately selected for these properties.”
Next Monday, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia will release a report on the “Barriers to Black Home Ownership,” in the city. The Philadelphia Fed’s experts and researchers provide information for Federal Reserve policy makers on the economy, community development, banking and other issues.
Meanwhile, Breweytown continues to attract new development.
For instance, in April, construction started on the Bordeaux, a five-story mixed-use building with 16 high-end units at 2600 W. Girard Ave. It is being developed by Argo Property Group and designed by Ambit Architecture. The building will have more than 20,000-square-feet of space, including 3,500-square-feet of space for retail on the ground floor. It is expected to be completed in 2022.
One of the city’s oldest neighborhoods, Brewerytown sits between Center City and the neighborhood of Fairmount. In the 1920s, the neighborhood was home to dozens of breweries, giving it its name.
Stephen Williams is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared.
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