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Working With a Community Development Corporation to Eliminate Blight in a Philadelphia Neighborhood

When Mt. Airy, USA, a Community Development Corporation in Northwest Philadelphia, sought to address the vacant and blighted residential properties in the neighborhood it serves, the organization turned to Kleinbard for assistance.  Kleinbard attorneys, Lorena E. AhumadaDavid L. Hyman, and Bernard B. Kolodner, serving as pro bono counsel, worked with MAUSA to obtain conservatorship status over one such abandoned building located in the heart of the Germantown Avenue corridor in the Mt. Airy business district.  This collaboration led to MAUSA’s becoming one of the first CDCs to achieve success through Pennsylvania’s Abandoned and Blighted Property Conservatorship Act (“Act 135”).

In May 2013, Kleinbard filed a petition under Act 135, on MAUSA’s behalf, seeking for the CDC to serve as conservator of the property located at 59 East Phil Ellena Street.  The goal of Act 135 (passed in 2008) is to alleviate the negative economic effects that abandoned and blighted properties have on businesses, neighboring property owners, municipalities and taxpayers. The Act enables court-appointed conservators to rehabilitate blighted and deteriorating residential, commercial and industrial properties to bring them into compliance with municipal codes and, eventually, transform them into productive reuse.

On September 3, 2013, the Honorable Arnold L. New for the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas granted MAUSA’s petition for conservatorship, appointing the organization as conservator of the East Phil Ellena Street property, finding that it was sufficiently abandoned and blighted as required by Act.  MAUSA, along with State Representative Cherelle L. Parker, hosted a well-attended press conference on October 10, 2013 to announce the historic success under Act 135.  David Hyman also gave remarks at this celebratory community event.

As required under Act 135, MAUSA on November 1, 2013 filed with the Court its proposed Final Plan for abatement of the property.  Following a hearing on December 2, 2013, Judge New approved MAUSA’s plan, allowing the organization to move forward with demolition and construction.  MAUSA hopes to complete its rehabilitation and list the property for sale by Summer 2014.