The city’s real estate agency chose a joint venture of two New York firms to redevelop Westpark Apartments on Powelton Avenue, one of its last 1960s high-rise buildings in Philadelphia.
Philadelphia Housing Authority, said its board had approved a pre-development agreement with the joint venture of L+M Development Partners and MSquared, of New York, to develop the site into a modern community that would initially have about 650 units. rental. units on 12 acre site at edge of college town.
Based in Larchmont, NY, L+M Development is a full-service real estate development company, which has acquired, built or renovated approximately 35,000 residential units. MSquared is a women-owned real estate development and investment company, working with the public sector, developers and investors to build mixed-use properties that include affordable housing.
The January 20 approval allows PHA to begin negotiating an agreement with the developers to create a final plan for the site. L+M Development and MSquared initially proposed to build 327 low-income housing units to replace the existing number of apartments in Westpark, 323 additional affordable and market-priced units as well as retail space.
According to Kelvin A. Jeremiah, President and CEO of PHA, the evaluation committee, which included resident leaders, “considered several proposals on how best to develop this prime real estate and provide housing Affordable, modern essentials to our residents in a rapidly gentrifying section of town.
“We can now begin the process of relocating Westpark residents and negotiate a final plan and agreement with our selected partners,” Jeremiah said. “I would like to thank the Resident Leaders as well as our Board of Directors for their role in helping us get to this point.”
Built in 1964, Westpark is within walking distance of SEPTA’s Market-Frankford line at 46th and Market streets, is typical of the old-fashioned high-rise public housing model. The development was part of the latest wave of high-rise towers built by PHA, when the so-called “tower-in-a-park” design was a model for urban public housing in Philadelphia and across the United States. In recent times, this model has fallen out of favor with public housing officials, residents, and social scientists.
Subsequently, as federal funding dwindled, it became increasingly difficult for agencies, such as the PHA to maintain, as the costs of these types of structures were estimated to be around $50 million, for improvements infrastructure, major systems, which did not include any updates to the living areas.
Since the 1990s, PHA has continually renovated, rehabilitated, and in other cases demolished skyscrapers to develop more townhouse-style, low-rise units that meet standards and needs of today’s modern families. The redevelopment will be designed to connect PHA residents to the surrounding community.
After being moved to other locations, during development Westpark residents will have the first right to return once completed, as has been the case with other PHA developments.
PHA is the fourth largest housing agency in the country, serving approximately 80,000 residents.