Martin Luther King Plaza


2007 MFE Awards
Merit: Affordable

By Jennifer Popovec

The four public housing towers looming over Martin Luther King Plaza were real downers. They were a disgrace to the working-class neighborhood and encouraged crime. The Philadelphia Housing Authority, determined to revitalize the neighborhood and the plaza, demolished the towers and developed 90 townhomes on that and other infill sites within the neighborhood.

A $25.2 million Hope IV grant contributed to the development of the three- and four-bedroom townhomes, which were designed by Silver Spring, Md.-based Torti Gallas & Partners. Unlike the barracks-style, low-rise housing and towers common to traditional public housing, the townhome-style housing takes it cues from the nearby Bella Vista neighborhood. The new Plaza was designed to follow New Urbanism principles and includes pedestrian-friendly streets, small front porches, and plenty of trees. Parking is in the rear.

The look and feel of the townhomes varies, yet complements the surrounding community with brick fašades accented by stone and pre-cast concrete. Individual units include central air, washer/dryer hookups, carpeting, and modern kitchen layouts. All units sold for $210,000 to $260,000.

And the ultimate reward? Replacing the public housing towers with the for-sale townhomes has helped to reduce crime in the neighborhood.