The City of Philadelphia has an alarming poverty rate of 26.3%, and the 24th lowest median income of the 25 largest cities in the nation. The Sharswood/Blumberg neighborhood is one of the City’s most distressed communities. The poverty rate in that neighborhood is 52.5%, and over 45 percent of the residents are youth under the age of 18. Decades of disinvestment and abandonment woefully define this neighborhood, the results of which are included over 1,300 vacant parcels, two vacant public school buildings, a depressed commercial corridor, and a frail system of social services.
The Sharswood/Blumberg neighborhood that is the focus of the plan is bound by 19th Street on the east, 27th Street on the west, by Cecil B. Moore Avenue at the north, and by Poplar Street to College Avenue on the south. The abandoned commercial corridor on Ridge Avenue, transverses the east end of the neighborhood. Girard College, an independent boarding school for students in grades 1 through 12 from families with limited financial resources, is located at south end of the neighborhood. The college has been an institutional anchor in the neighborhood since 1833, and rests on 43 acres enclosed by high walls surrounding the campus.
The Blumberg Apartments, which are near the center of the Sharswood neighborhood, complex consists of two 18-story high-rise multifamily apartment buildings, one 15-story high-rise senior apartment building, and 15 low-rise three-story town homes. The complex sits on a superblock bounded by W. Oxford Street on the north, 22nd Street on the east, W. Jefferson Street on the south, and N. 24th Street on the west; it will turn 60 years old in 2016, and has nearly $84.7 million in unmet capital and maintenance needs. The physical, social, and economic distress of Blumberg Apartments has been a cause of the downward spiral of this neighborhood over the last 30 years.
The Sharswood/Blumberg neighborhood is located in the City’s 22nd Police District, which is one of Philadelphia’s highest-crime areas. The Sharswood/Blumberg community has high incidents of child abuse and neglect, domestic abuse, drug sales, and youth violence. The statistics in Figure 5 evidence the urgent need to lower the crime rates and improve public safety in this community for all residents in the 22nd Police District.
Nonetheless, the neighborhood’s proximity to the thriving Center City District (a 10-minute drive) and to the surrounding redevelopment efforts on its south, east, and west ends creates a high potential for commercial and residential revitalization. The southern boundary that separates Sharswood/Blumberg from Center City is home to the communities of Fairmount and Francisville. Over the last decade, these neighborhoods have experienced substantial redevelopment from private investments leveraged with public funds, transforming them into neighborhoods of choice for families of various income levels. To the west of Sharswood/Blumberg is Brewerytown, which is emerging as a vibrant residential and commercial area, and to the east is the outer rim of housing revitalization for Temple University students and faculty.
Target Public Housing Site: Norman Blumberg Apartments
The development is on an 8-acre site with a mixture of high-rise and low-rise homes and apartments, with 510 units in all.
Target Neighborhood: Sharswood/Blumberg
The Sharswood/Blumberg Neighborhood extends from 19th Street to 27th Street in Lower North Philadelphia between Girard College to the South and Cecil B. Moore Avenue to the North. Major community assets include the Athletic Center on 27th Street, a Keystone Opportunity Zone along Ridge Avenue, the Cecil B. Moore Home-ownership Zone, and a Philadelphia Empowerment Zone. Recent residential developments in this area include the Sharswood Apartments and the Haven Peniel Senior Housing. On Cecil B. Moore Avenue within the target neighborhood, the Project HOME Stephen Klein Wellness Center is currently under construction between 21st and 22nd Streets, and a new mixed-use development is currently proposed at 27th street.
Although the neighborhood benefits from its direct access to Center City Philadelphia and proximity to more stable neighborhoods including Fairmout, Brewerytown and Francisville; the Sharswood/Blumberg Choice Neighborhood area has a significant concentration of vacant land and abandoned properties. Over 26% of the housing units within this neighborhood are currently vacant, compared to 13% citywide. Additionally, there are an estimated 1,282 vacant parcels within the area, representing an area of over 35 acres (26 football fields)