PHA Building Sells Near 16th & Fairmount

The Philadelphia Housing Authority is perhaps best known for its┬ásizable developments that cover several consecutive city blocks (often with unfortunate suburban-style architecture), but PHA also owns a ton of scattered site properties which are supposed to blend in with their surroundings.┬áNot surprisingly, these units are much more difficult to manage than the concentrated PHA properties, and they tend to experience more wear and tear and have traditionally been much more likely to sit vacant and blighted for long stretches. In an effort to streamline operations and raise some cash, we’ve seen PHA sell off hundreds of these properties over the last few years, though they still own thousands all over the city.

You may not realize, but there are sizable pockets of PHA homes in the Francisville and Spring Garden neighborhoods. In fact, if you didn’t know about the PHA homes in these neighborhoods, it’s a great indication that the scattered site model is succeeding, such that the there’s no possible stigma being felt by the folks living in subsidized housing. While it’s possible to not notice the dozens of PHA units in these neighborhoods, the PHA office at 710 N. 16th St. has been an obvious presence near 16th & Fairmount for as long as we can remember.

The building
Looking down Olive Street
Looking down Swain St.

Alas, PHA moved out of this building when they finished their new headquarters on Ridge Avenue. And it makes sense- if you’ve got a big shiny new building, why not consolidate as many offices as possible into one location? As nature abhors a vacuum, something has to happen with this property. It was listed for sale for $2.5M earlier this year, and as we were passing by earlier today, we noticed that the ‘For Sale’ sign is gone. Someone new owns this property, though public record hasn’t updated to show just how close they came to the asking price.

Homes and construction just to the north

So now what? The property is zoned CMX-2, which requires commercial use on the first floor and allows apartments above the commercial space. Given the size of the lot and considering available bonuses, we see a scenario in which a developer could accommodate 31 apartments on this site. That’s quite obviously not going to fit in the building that’s now on the site, so if density is the aim then demolition would be a very likely outcome. Alternately, someone could repurpose the existing building into far fewer units above commercial, but we don’t see how that would work out, economically. So even though we couldn’t tell you exactly what will happen here as far as redevelopment goes, we’d wager on demolition being the first step in the process. Has anyone in the neighborhood heard anything about potential plans?