Design for 8200 Germantown Ave. project modified slightly

In the year since Bowman Properties unveiled preliminary designs for its planned mixed-use project at 8200 Germantown Ave., critics derided it as too big and dense, a hulking presence that would overwhelm the neighborhood.

But what owner/developer Richard Snowden is really going for, he said this week, is a “quiet and dignified” addition to Chestnut Hill’s quaint commercial strip. In a status meeting Thursday with members of the Chestnut Hill Community Association’s Land Use, Planning and Zoning committee, project representatives offered more detailed site and floor plans, and noted several design changes meant to help lessen the overall impact.

“We’re here to check in and present where we are now,” Snowden told LUPZ members, noting that site elevations and designs are still a work in progress but “there are a lot of rough edges that were smoothed over.”

Project architects Richard Gelber and Stanley Runyan discussed some updates and changes to the design of the mixed-use portion of the overall plan, which includes a 20,000 square-foot The Fresh Market grocery store topped by four stories of condominiums, with a maximum overall height of 60 feet from street level. Fifth-floor residences which once had balconies that would overlook Germantown Avenue now have enclosed spaces.

Schematic drawings submitted Thursday also include more detailed articulation of the layout of the supermarket, which had appeared on previous plans as an empty white space, as well as the condos, which are accessed from an entrance on Hartwell Lane.

Thursday’s meeting only addressed the grocery store/retail/condo building that will front Germantown Avenue, and not the row of townhouses that would be built at the rear of the site, along Shawnee Street facing Pastorious Park. Plans for that component are also ongoing, but the two phases of the project will proceed on independent, though possibly simultaneous, construction schedules, said Seth Shapiro, the project manager.

Assuming CHCA approval of the final community development agreement, Bowman officials said they hoped to secure building permits for the 8200 Germantown Ave. portion by late October.

LUPZ member Cynthia Brey said her review of the latest version of the plans felt like the building actually feels bigger, but project representatives said the overall square footage of the building stands at about 82,000 square feet though some positioning is different.

“There’s been no ‘hide the ball’ here, Cynthia,” Snowden said. “It is exactly as it is supposed to be.”

Any changes, Bowman representatives said, were made in keeping with the “term sheet,” a document that spelled out the specifics of the conditions upon which the CHCA gave its approval for the project in December.

“We comply or are set back slightly further than almost every dimension or percentage that’s in the term sheet,” Gelber said.

Runyan, who is handling facade design and details, noted several changes meant to make the building less jarring and dominating at eye level. The three street-level retail spaces fronting Germantown Avenue are now designed to look like three “townhouses,” with individual entrances separated by schist and bluestone accents, and railings made from vintage wrought iron.

The changes, he said, are meant “to tame this building, to refine it, to make it fit in on Germantown Avenue,” he said.

The ongoing talks are being done in anticipation of next week’s expected adoption of a Community Development Agreement between Bowman Properties and the CHCA, a legally-binding document that spells out the exact terms and details of the plan. CHCA president Jane Piotrowski, who could sign the agreement on behalf of the CHCA at a meeting May 17, attended the meeting Thursday and listened in on the discussion but limited her participation to note-taking.

Snowden said the design team’s “aha moment” came when they stopped fighting the street grid and tried to make the overall design more responsive to the street.

“We’re trying for a quiet, dignified presence. The goal here is to make the building a good neighbor, not to make a statement,” he said.

NewsWorks has partnered with independent news gatherer PlanPhilly to provide regular, in-depth, timely coverage of planning, zoning and development news.

Contact Amy Z. Quinn at azquinn@planphilly.com

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