City Council approves rezoning bills for 8200 Germantown Ave.

The pieces are now in place for a controversial grocery store development along Chestnut Hill’s busy main street.

City Council on Thursday voted unanimously to approve outgoing Councilwoman Donna Reed Miller’s three bills to re-zone the property at 8200 Germantown Ave. and to change an overlay on the area to permit mixed-use development. With approvals this week from Chestnut Hill’s Civic Association, and from the city Planning Commission earlier this week, all that’s left is Mayor Nutter’s signature to make it official.

 

What will be built

Developer Richard Snowden’s Bowman Properties plans a three-part project including grocer The Fresh Market, 17 condos along Germantown Avenue at Hartwell Lane, and eight townhouses fronting Shawnee Street.

The plans would breathe new life into the long-dormant property that once housed the Magarity Ford dealership, and introduce the currently popular retail-residential model — meant to reinvigorate struggling neighborhood commercial districts — to Chestnut Hill. Buildings sit close to the street, with parking behind and residences above, meant to encourage foot traffic and activity not just during daytime business hours.

 

Zoning through Council

The speedy Council vote, done without comment, was a contrast to the months-long community review process and its accompanying struggles — business competition, years-long neighborhood rivalries, and questions about whose voice gets heard in Chestnut Hill.

Many in Chestnut Hill said it was too much, too dense, too grand a plan for the neighborhood’s quaint street atmosphere. Snowden called the 8200 Germantown Ave. site a “hinge piece” that could provide a transition from the upper and lower parts of the avenue and bring some new residents and customers for all.

Others criticized the method Snowden took to get the project approved — through legislation, offered by a Councilwoman headed out of office, rather than through the zoning board. Supporters of the plan included the Chestnut Hill Business Association.

The third bill in the package would change the direction of Hartwell Lane, bringing traffic out of the Fresh Market parking lot and to Germantown Avenue. Under the draft agreement, that change won’t happen until construction is well underway on the project.

Contact Amy Z. Quinn at azquinn@planphilly.com

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