| Follow Us: Facebook Twitter RSS Feed

Development News

Neighborhood friendly and green Mantua Square public housing complex opens, could be model for PHA

The Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA) opened a new door for residents of Mantua last week with the opening of the Mantua Square public housing complex at 35th and Fairmount. Mantua Square is a much more modern, sustainable, and neighborhood-appropriate successor to the previous 18-story public housing tower that stood at the site. It didn’t take long for the Pennsylvania Association of Housing and Redevelopment Authorities (PAHRA) to take notice, as they gave the PHA a “best practices” award for the development.

Michael Johns, the general manager of community design and development for PHA, describes why PAHRA appreciated Mantua Square so much. They liked that the “new facility fits into the overall character of the neighborhood,” says Johns. Johns adds that the award also reflects how the housing enhances the aesthetic of the area. The Authority is not surprised at these blandishments, as one of their main goals was to build public housing that jives well with the surrounding community. According to Johns, designers analyzed the existing brick pattern in Mantua, and drew up plans for the Square with that in mind.

Mantua Square also features some cutting edge sustainability features that are not seen in many other Philadelphia public housing developments. One of the most intriguing features is that the building has the capability to return unused electricity back into the grid. Photovoltaic solar panels capable of producing 200 megawatts of power annually are mounted on the roof. Finally, Johns says that environmentally sensitive stormwater management practices are being used.

Residents of Mantua Square can also exhale, as the Housing Authority has taken steps to make the complex safer. Johns describes the PHA’s strategy as “crime prevention through environmental design.” Some examples of this include where the PHA placed the doors on the units, more radiant lighting, and the large courtyard in the middle of the complex. Also, he points out that windows are placed on the sides, which enables self-policing for residents. This stands in stark contrast to the old high-rise public housing that sometimes proved a breeding ground for crime.

The PHA is hoping that they can learn some things about conserving energy from this new development. They are also collaborating with Drexel in an effort to examine how they can save money on electricity. Among the practices they’re considering implementing in other complexes is using solar energy. The Authority is hoping Mantua Square and their work with Drexel will serve as a guide for future solar energy collection.

Michael Johns and many others at the Philadelphia Housing Authority are hoping they can set a new precedent in neighborhood relations with Mantua Square. “We are showing the communities of Belmont and Mantua that government and the Philadelphia Housing Authority care,” says Johns. The statewide association of housing authorities has already recognized this. Now, all we need is for the residents of Mantua Square to take pride in this.  

Source: Michael Johns, Philadelphia Housing Authority
Writer: Andy Sharpe
Signup for Email Alerts
Signup for Email Alerts