Back in June, representatives from SPARC, the South Philadelphia Area Revitalization Corporation, went before the ZBA to request variances to construct three single family, affordable homes on the 400 block of Emily St. This is of interest both because the construction would fill three gaps at 416, 424, and 439 Emily St. on an otherwise mostly complete residential street in South Philadelphia, and because these projects would represent the first development from SPARC after a few years of legal troubles.
SPARC, which owns dozens of properties between 4th and 6th Sts., Mifflin and Jackson Sts., had plans to redevelop many properties all at once to attempt to jumpstart private investment in the neighborhood. With a sizable settlement payout to a police officer injured in one of their poorly maintained properties, their cash on hand has been greatly reduced, as has their ability to build on vacant lots and rehab vacant properties.
From what we can tell, this will be SPARC’s first step back into the redevelopment arena since they fell upon hard financial times. While some folks we’ve spoken to in the area question whether SPARC is entirely on the level, we’re optimistic that the construction of three new houses on this block will represent a positive change for the area, which could definitely use a little help. Interestingly, the other property that SPARC owns on this block, 434 Emily St., is the property where the police officer was injured, and isn’t included among the new construction on the way at the moment.
Hopefully, SPARC will start moving on their numerous other properties in the neighborhood. Otherwise, our hope is that if their financial situation doesn’t improve soon, they’ll start selling off some of their stock of properties in the neighborhood. Sitting on vacant lots in the area for the next ten years will certainly not help bridge the current gap between Pennsport and Passyunk.