Credit: Richard Barnes

South Philadelphia has long been known as a working class, urban neighborhood. Originally the site of factories and warehouses, South Philly housed naval barracks during World War II. A number of years after the war, the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA) converted the quarters into Passyunk Homes. The low-income community was demolished in 2002.

Over the past decade, South Philly has seen a resurgence, including the relocation of sports teams to the area and more upscale residential choices. Enter Siena Place. In 2006, Blue Bell, Pa.-based Penrose Park Associates purchased a 50-acre vacant site from the PHA. The plan? To build the 313-unit Siena Place, the company’s first urban row house complex.

“We thought the vacant land could be transformed into row houses with interconnected walkways and green space after we noted revitalization in the area due to the proximity of sports facilities, restaurants, and entertainment,” says Joseph Vincent Saturno, construction manager for Petoni Construction Co., a division of Penrose. The company broke ground on the project in spring 2008.

The row houses are based on one of three historic-inspired plans, each three stories high, with brick and stucco façades. Designed to appeal to families, the housing units offer three or four bedrooms and range from roughly 2,600 square feet to 3,000 square feet.

To date, 34 homes have been built and sold for between $412,000 and $457,000. “We’re building them as demand warrants since sales have slowed since we started,” Saturno says.

The finished homes already have made a difference in what had been an ugly, vacant lot, says Philadelphia city council president Anna C. Verna. “Mr. DePaul [Penrose’s owner] should be congratulated for the fine job he did, establishing a great project where people can raise their families in a healthy, safe environment,” she says.