Officials this week held a ribbon cutting, opening a new $38.8 million, 100-unit housing development in Southwest Philadelphia — hailing the new Paschall Village as the key to revitalizing the neighborhood.
“This is not about bricks and mortar; it’s about souls and lives,” said state Sen. Anthony Williams, at Wednesday’s ribbon cutting.
The new homes, built by the Philadelphia Housing Authority between Paschall and Woodland Avenue at 72nd Street, boast a number of green and sustainable features including: geothermal heating and cooling, solar hot water, solar panels, a rainwater irrigation system and ENERGY STAR appliances.
But, Williams and the other speakers hailed the development not so much for its architecture, cutting edge technology or amenities — but for its power to transform the surrounding neighborhood of Southwest Philly. The new village replaced a barracks-like slab of a housing project, built in 1966, that was renowned as a hub of crime until it was demolished in 2009.
“It was an antiquated, drug- and crime-infested area,” remembered Council president Anna C. Verna, who represents the Southwest, adding that the old 223-unit project riddled with courtyards and narrow alleys made a perfect hideout for criminals — and particularly dangerous for police.
In the months before the old complex was torn down, between January and April 2009, police said there were 11 murders and 15 rapes within a half-mile of the complex. It was so notorious for drug activity that in 2006 federal agents descended on the complex and arrested 22 people.
There was no evidence of that history this week.
The new houses are laid out in several neat rows and a new street, an extension of Saybrook Avenue, divided the block. At the corner of 72nd and Paschall, a new 4,000 square-foot community center, complete with computer center, anchored the village. New street lights and trees lined the streets.
Verna hoped the new homes will provide the catalyst for change.
“I see today as a great opportunity,” she said. “This is just the beginning.”
Williams, who lives just a few miles from the development, had even stronger words for new residents, and exhorted his new neighbors to resist letting the development again become a safe harbor for drugs and crime.
“We have a beginning here. I want us — the people, the neighbors — to reclaim our dignity, our humanity, our compassion,” he said, adding that new residents needed to tell anyone inclined to push the neighborhood backwards: “You’re not bringing that drama back to my neighborhood.”
The new complex has 12 one-bedroom, 52 two-bedroom and 36 three-bedroom units and 20 handicapped accessible units. All have off-street parking.
“The housing authority has come through again,” said resident liaison Nellie Reynolds. “But, you have to make it a home. We can’t do that for you. Do it with pride. Do it with love.”
The development has already won the 10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania Award — and PHA director Michael Kelly expects it to win more.
“It is a shining example of PHA’s commitment to building green, energy-efficient, sustainable developments,” Kelly said. “We intend to be a leader and set an example in this field.”
Last month, PHA opened another green development, Mantua Court, in West Philadelphia. The $28.1 million, 101-unit public housing development replaced Mantua Hall, a notorious 18-story tower at 35th Street and Fairmount Avenue.
Paschall Village, the Philadelphia Housing Authority’s $38.8 million green development in Southwest Philadelphia, has received top honors from the Pennsylvania Association of Housing and Redevelopment Authorities.
The development, which opened in November 2011 encompasses 72nd Street to Cobbs Creek Parkway, Paschall Avenue and Lloyd Street, captured the PAHRA’s Bellamy Award for Housing, which recognizes the very best in design and new construction by affordable housing agencies across the state, in a close contest.
The award is given to just one of the state’s 89 housing authorities.
“We are thrilled to receive this award from our fellow professionals,” said Kelvin Jeremiah, PHA’s interim executive director. “It’s always our goal to make a lasting, positive impact on neighborhoods and become a catalyst for long-term, local economic growth. Receiving this type of recognition from your peers for a sustainable, environmentally friendly housing development is a great honor and PHA is committed to doing more of this work in the future.”
The 100-unit housing development features high performance green products including central geothermal heating and cooling, solar domestic hot water, solar panels, rainwater harvesting/irrigation system, and Energy Star fixtures and equipment.
Officials said the energy saving features would cut costs for residents of Paschall Village by as much a 30 percent a month for a 2-bedroom unit and 35 per month for a 3-bedroom unit.
Scientists from Drexel University’s Department of Civil, Architectural, and Environmental Engineering provided technical assistance related to identifying and assessing energy efficiency strategies.
“The final product certainly improved the quality of life for residents,” said Frank Aggazio, President of PAHRA, adding that judges were also impressed with the multiple sources of funding and the number of partnerships PHA formed to make this high-performing development possible.
In the units’ interiors, PHA addressed indoor air quality health issues at Paschall by using materials like low- or no-Volatile Organic Compound paints, primers, adhesives, and sealants; urea formaldehyde-free composite wood; bathroom exhaust fans equipped with a humidistat sensor or timer; kitchen exhaust fans; and insulation that results in more efficient heating and air conditioning. Carpets were eliminated from the development to avoid issues with dust mites.
Benefits are not limited to residents.
The use of green technology throughout the development helps the city reduce its carbon footprint. The use of open space, trees, a rainwater harvesting/irrigation system, and pervious concrete fits in with the city’s wastewater management program, which was recently approved by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The new development has over 92,000 square feet of pervious space/materials, a 47-fold increase over the old site.
Paschall Village replaced a barracks like slab of a housing project built in 1966 that was renowned as a hub of crime until it was demolished in 2009. No evidence of that history remains.
The new houses are laid out in several neat rows and a new street, an extension of Saybrook Street, divided the block. At the corner of 72nd and Paschall, a new 4,000 square-foot community center, complete with computer center, anchored the village. New street lights and trees lined the streets.