Crews clearing way for impending Queen Lane Apartments implosion

The Philadelphia Housing Authority is in the midst of prepping Queen Lane Apartments for a seconds-long implosion tentatively slated for the fall.

The 16-story high-rise tower must be "hollow" before it can be demolished to make way for a low-density development featuring 55 new rental units.

That means crews have to remove all appliances, cabinetry, debris and other materials from every floor of the building's hulking frame.

PHA is completing the work as it waits for demolition approval from the city.

Demo schedule still pending

It's still unclear exactly what day the tower will come down, though it's expected to be sometime in October, perhaps even a bit earlier.

The implosion will unfold on either a Saturday or a Sunday.

PHA will host a series of community meetings beforehand to discuss the timeline with residents and what they can expect leading up, during and after the demolition.

Those meetings will be held at 6 p.m. inside Mt. Moriah Baptist Church — directly across Pulaski Street from the tower — on Aug. 7, Aug. 14, Aug. 28 and Sept. 4.

"This has been a long arduous process," said PHA's Executive Director Kelvin Jeremiah. "It has been extremely frustrating for me being new to Philadelphia, but I think I can say with some level of confidence that I can finally see some light at the end of the tunnel."

The back story

The prep work is nearly three years in the making.

That's when PHA first publicly presented its plans to replace the tower with the $22 million project.

Not long afterwards, though, an 18th century Potter's Field was discovered beneath the site.

Neighbors wanted to preserve and honor the colonial burial ground created for "all strangers, Negroes, and Mulattoes [who die] in any part of Germantown forever."

PHA ultimately agreed not to build atop the cemetery, a decision which added a complex layer to a historical-review process that had to be completed before the U.S. Department of Urban Housing and Development (HUD) could accept an application for demolition approval.

PHA paid for a pair of archaeological surveys to determine the boundaries of the Potter's Field. The agency also executed a "programmatic agreement" with HUD, neighbors and other stakeholders.

The legal document, finalized in the winter, spells out what actions will be taken going forward if any historic resources are found either during additional archaeological digs, demolition or construction.

To date, no human remains have been discovered at the site and nothing has indicated that the burial ground extends beyond the roughly two-acre footprints found on a pair of historic site maps.

About the author

Aaron Moselle, WHYY reporter

Aaron Moselle is a general assignment reporter for WHYY. While you can find him at the courthouse or a school funding rally, he also spends a good chunk of his time writing about issues in Northwest Philadelphia, where he was born and raised.

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