A crumbling North Philadelphia building that's been vacant for decades is getting a major makeover as it is gutted and transformed into 37 subsidized housing apartments, mostly used for aging veterans.
The former Spring Garden School, a four-story brick structure with broken and missing windows is an eyesore to well known to North Philadelphia residents.
"Let me tell you, this building has been such a thorn in my side," said the head of the Philadelphia Housing Authority, Kelvin Jeremiah. "I used to get calls about this all of the time."
Residents complained about drug deals happening inside the abandoned building.
Inside it's covered with graffiti and the paint is peeling off the walls. Jeremiah said now the former school will help solve Philadelphia's need for cheap housing.
"This development is part of PHA's initiative to create some 6,000 units of affordable housing in the city in the next five years," he said during a symbolic groundbreaking ceremony for the project.
The Philadelphia Housing Authority has partnered with the nonprofit Help USA, which specializes in housing for the homeless, to turn this old building around.
The project will cost more than $13 million. Help USA CEO Tom Hameline said future residents of this building will also receive support services.
"The key of what we do is housing stability, and making sure that people not only get in housing but that they benefit from the housing, remain housed and move on with their lives," he said.
Disabled Vietnam veteran Albert El, who mentors other vets, said the concept of specialized housing makes sense. "Veterans do understand each other," he said. "It's hard for a civilian person who doesn't even know what a foxhole is."
The project is slated to to be finished within 14 months.