With prison-style public housing towers gone, Philly plans major revitalization

On March 19, 2016, the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA) will implode the Norman Blumberg Apartments, a 1960s public housing complex on an eight-acre site with three towers and 15 low-rise buildings.

In doing so, the authority is making good on a long-standing promise to improve the state of public housing in this corner of North Philly. It will mark the beginning of the authority’s most ambitious project ever.

Over the years, the Blumberg complex became a symbol of decline. By PHA’s own description, Blumberg became an “obstacle to neighborhood renewal” and was considered the agency’s most distressed public housing complex. Plagued by drug and violent crime, Blumberg was also a place of concentrated poverty at a rate double the city’s already high 26% average.

While housing values climb in surrounding neighborhoods like Brewerytown, Fairmount, Francisville, and North Central Philly, investment in Sharswood has lagged. The neighborhood has hundreds of vacant properties, including blocks bulldozed by the city under the Neighborhood Transformation Initiative a decade ago.

Now a new transformation is on the horizon: PHA’s Sharswood-Blumberg Transformation Plan, released late last year, envisions a 10-phase vision for the neighborhood renewal, including the addition of 1,200 new units of mixed-income housing.

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