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Crews will start tearing down the University City Townhomes before the year is out, marking the end for an apartment complex whose closure became a cause célèbre for affordable housing advocates amid a citywide crisis.
The milestone comes after every resident of the 70-unit complex was relocated. The protracted process wrapped up at the end of last week — more than two years after IBID Associates notified the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that it was not renewing the affordable housing contract it had maintained at the site for nearly 40 years.
Most of the complex’s tenants used housing choice vouchers to rent elsewhere on the private market.
“Work is now underway to secure the vacant complex and prepare the site for demolition, which is expected to occur by the end of the year,” said IBID spokesperson Kevin Feeley in a statement.
Demolishing the townhomes is the first tangible step in redeveloping the nearly three-acre site at 3900 Market Street, which sits in the same swiftly gentrifying section of West Philadelphia that the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University call home.
Under a federal lawsuit settled in April, IBID Associates has donated roughly a half-acre to the city. The plot will be used to build 70 units of permanently affordable housing, with the intention of offering them to households with very low incomes.
The rest of the site will be owned by IBID Associates and used for a separate development, according to the settlement. There’s speculation the valuable land will be sold for the development of a new life sciences building. The agreement also accounts for the possibility of a market-rate residential project.
It’s unclear when either parcel will be developed.
“We’re just not at a point where we can answer those questions,” said Feeley.
The city spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.