8200 Germantown Ave. project created divide among neighbors

The 8200 Germantown Ave. project won unanimous support last night of the Chestnut Hill Community Association (CHCA).

While the CHCA vote accurately reflects the board’s strong support for letting Bowman Properties build the grocery store/condo project, it was clear that it did not represent everyone who was there.

After a presentation by the developer, lawyer and architect involved, the community was invited to participate in a discussion about the project.

Tom Beck, of the 8300 block of Shawnee St, said he had over 1,500 signatures of disapproval from the near neighbors. Beck simply called the project “too big” for Chestnut Hill. He also continually referred to Bowman’s project as a “scheme” referring to the developer’s plan to seek a major zoning change via City Council.

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Others expressed concern that if such a large project were to successfully rise up only fail a few years down the road, that it would join several other overbearing vacant properties along Germantown Avenue, such as Borders and the Gap, by essentially trading one vacant building for an even larger vacant building.

But many residents at the meeting expressed enthusiasm for the project, citing the current eyesore that breaks up the avenue.

“This is a turning point for the community,” said resident Mike Hickey. “You have something positive coming in the community at a very difficult time. We need to look at the ‘what if,’ (as in) what if we don’t move forward.”

Larry McEwen, co-chair of the DRC, was very positive about the review process and stated that in his 18 years of working with the DRC, no other project could compare in its involvement of neighbors than Bowman’s inclusion during this development process. He also reiterated that Bowman Properties would continue work with the committees as they move forward with their plans.

As the project stands, the property will include a Fresh Market grocer, several storefronts along Germantown Avenue, condominiums above the retail portion and eight townhouses that will line up along Shawnee Street.

Last night’s vote was part of a special CHCA meeting at Chestnut Hill Hospital. Bowman Properties is co-owned by CHCA board member Richard Snowden who did make good on his promise that the association would get to vote on the project before the Philadelphia City Council held its final vote on his zoning request. The vote was unanimous of the 23 board members who voted last night. The CHCA has a 33 member board.

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