Journal of Housing & Community Development

Sharswood Tower Is Remade, Bringing Promising Future

October 22, 2021
by Libby Miller

The Philadelphia Housing Authority won a 2020 Award of Excellence for Project Design for its modernized and rehabbed its Sharswood Tower. Nominated from among the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials Award of Merit winners each year, the Awards of Excellence winners are chosen by national juries and honored at the annual National Conference and Exhibition in November. They represent the very best in innovative programs in assisted housing and community development. 

The Sharswood Tower is one part of the housing authority’s plan to demolish and reconstruct a superblock in North Philadelphia bound by 22nd and 24th streets, and Oxford and Jefferson streets in order to provide upgrades to modernize and create a safer living environment for residents.  

Sharswood Tower, formerly the Blumberg Senior Tower, is a mid-century low-income senior apartment high-rise that after years of use and poor planning was left dilapidated, inefficiently laid out, and did not meet current safety and accessibility requirements. Through careful selective demolition and insertion of all new electrical, mechanical and sprinkler systems, insulation, and windows, the building now complies with to-date safety and energy codes. The units were reorganized with new kitchens and bathrooms and given a sleek, fresh look. The community room, leasing and tenant offices, laundry rooms and outdoor patio were all upgraded, and a walkable park was also added.   

The building contains 94 completely renovated units with some minor plan reorganization for the purposes of increased accessibility and better functionality. Perhaps the greatest of all these improvements was the replacement of all the old radiators with new, high-efficiency water source heat pumps which now provide cooling to the building for the first time. Longevity is built into the project design, as the entire shell of the building was repaired and repainted to last maintenance free for decades. Sustainability was also factored in, with the design featuring open public greenspace, LED site lighting, and energy and water efficient utilities. The renovated tower, which is the tallest building in the area, is an inspiring symbol of how some aspects of a difficult past can be remade into a promising future.  

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