Stories about life in Liddonfield housing project and its impact on the Northeast Philadelphia neighborhood of Upper Holmesburg. These true stories reveal how government policy affected the lives of real people, from the project residents to area homeowners during the 5 decades of Liddonfield’s existence. Stories and articles are written by a former resident of the project.


Rosemary Reeves, Blogger, standing on Philadelphia Skyline

Jun 16, 2013

Conclusion of Liddonfield: One Neighborhood’s Struggle With Public Housing

If you missed the first 10 parts of this series click on the links below:

Part 1:  A Politician's Legacy, An Architect's Vision

State Reps Stack and McGeehan Put An End to Notorious Liddonfield Project

By Rosemary Reeves

Crime in Liddonfield housing project jumps 117% from 1999 to 2007as residents of Martin Luther King projects, Richard Allen Homes and Mill Creek projects are temporarily placed in Liddonfield.  The HOPE VI Progam to revitalize severely distressed public housing proves to be a godsend to other parts of the city, but it is a curse to a northeast Philadelphia neighborhood already struggling with crime and lack of police. In 2006, the Philadelphia Housing Authority deems Liddonfield “a problem” and schedules it for demolition.


“It has been repeatedly stated the Liddonfield Homes demolition is critical to the community.” --Pennsylvania State Representative Mike McGeehan

In 1992 the US government issued a mandate called HOPE VI which calls for the demolition of severely distressed public housing developments.  The program was conceived because the US government sought to reform an antiquated public housing system which had become a magnet for crime by knocking down the projects and turning them into mixed-income developments, where market-rate homes are blended in with small numbers of low-income housing units as opposed to concentrating poverty.  As the number of new low-income dwellings will be less than before, some of the former project tenants are given housing vouchers.

In order to move into the new, mixed-income community tenants had to be working as well as pass credit and criminal background checks.  However, when relocating public housing tenants in the interim, many were temporarily placed in other projects, such as Liddonfield.  Crime in Liddonfield housing project jumped 117% from 1999 to 2007.  This coincides with the implementation of the HOPE VI program in Philadelphia.

It is important to note that during this huge surge in crime, long-time Liddonfield residents blamed it on a large influx of newcomers who had no respect for the Liddonfield community into which they were placed.  The demolition of some of these other Philadelphia housing projects under the HOPE VI Program occurred within this time period.  Martin Luther King projects were demolished in 1999; Richard Allen Homes was demolished in 2001; Mill Creek projects were demolished in 2002 and Falls Ridge projects were demolished in 2003.  

It is quite conceivable that the newcomers from the other projects, having no prior history with Liddonfield and thus no friendships or familial ties to other residents did not think of Liddonfield as “home,” especially since it was a temporary placement.  Also, they were not yet subjected to credit or criminal background checks.  While the best public housing tenants would be welcomed into their mixed-income communities once they were built, Liddonfield would be stuck with the worst tenants who would never pass those checks. The HOPE VI program might have been a godsend to other parts of Philadelphia, but it was a curse upon a Northeast neighborhood that was already struggling with a crime problem and a shortage of local police.

Liddonfield had been standing for more than fifty years.  The plumbing was outdated, it was mold-ridden and the buildings were in disrepair.  The cement enclosures used for storage were crumbling and had to be taken down due to the safety hazard.  State Representatives Michael Stack and Mike McGeehan were working with Ed Rendell, who was now governor of Pennsylvania, to secure state funds for Liddonfield’s demolition.  They had a plan to redevelop it which they called the “Liddonfield Renewal Project.” 

In August 2006, Stack and McGeehan stood beside Philadelphia Housing Authority Executive Director Carl Greene and Congressman Chaka Fattah at the Jackson Drive entrance to Liddonfield housing project and announced to the tenants that the state had awarded $3.5 million for the demolition of the project.  They promised a new mixed-income neighborhood in its stead and displayed an artist’s rendition of a re-built Liddonfield, complete with townhomes that blended in with the landscape of the surrounding area.  There would be a new and open street configuration with better access to the rest of the neighborhood.  No longer would they be cut off from the rest of Upper Holmesburg by a lack of entrances and exits and back alleys, hidden spots and dead-ends within the project.  Twelve acres of the 32 acre site would be used for low-income housing and the remaining 20 acres would be sold to a private developer who would build several hundred market-rate homes.

In the August 15, 2006 Philadelphia Tribune article, PHA Gets Liddonfield Funds , Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA) spokesman Kirk Dorn talked about shootings at Richard Allen Homes and Falls Creek projects before those projects were redeveloped. “Those PHA sites are now all beautiful, low-crime communities that are simultaneously raising the quality of life for our low-income clients and raising property values in the surrounding communities.”  In the same article he is quoted as saying that Liddonfield “has become a problem for us.”  It is not likely to be a coincidence that when the worst tenants from the other projects were relocated to Liddonfield there was a 117% increase in crime.

The $3.5 million State Reps Stack and McGeehan secured from the state was only enough to cover the cost of demolition.  PHA applied for HOPE VI funding as the redevelopment of Liddonfield was estimated to cost around $94 million.  However, due to the economic downturn, the HOPE VI program suffered severe budget cuts and the Department of Housing and Urban Development denied the application a few weeks after the ceremony at Liddonfield where public officials announced plans for the mixed-income community.

As an alternative, PHA attempted to get the rest of the money from a private developer and sent out a request for proposals.  However, there was a severe downturn in the real estate market as well.  Only two proposals were submitted, both of which PHA declined because the terms were not favorable to the housing authority.  The 2006 announcement of a mixed-income neighborhood for the Liddonfield site had been premature.  It was not going to happen.

PHA and state officials decided to go ahead with the demolition anyway.  In 2007, PHA suspended admissions to Liddonfield.  In December 2009 residents of the project were given 90 days to relocate.  The site stood vacant for several months after the relocation deadline before demolition crews began bulldozing the northeast Philadelphia housing project known as Liddonfield. 

While local newspaper headlines hailed the demolition of the project as a victory, a different side of the Liddonfield story went unreported.  Former Liddonfield residents from near and far, many of whom lived in the project during its heyday, visited the site to say their last goodbye.  Some filmed the demolition and put it up on YouTube.  Others climbed over the fence in the wee hours of the evening after the demolition crews had gone home and collected relics like old address plates and pieces of Liddonfield sidewalk. Their reunion was held in 2011.  Many former residents of Liddonfield still live in northeast Philadelphia.


View a touching farewell to Liddonfield video by L.A. Ives which includes lots of photos of the project’s former residents.  


PHA Gets Liddonfield Funds, Philadelphia Tribune, August 15, 2006 

Liddonfield Project Plan is on Hold, Northeast Times, November 9, 2006 by reporter William Kenny

Liddonfield Homes Demolition Update, State Rep Mike McGeehan website, March 10, 2010


No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for commenting on!