Some neighbors fear frozen yogurt shop ‘Chill on the Hill’ will be crime magnet

Will a proposed frozen yogurt shop in Philadelphia be a magnet for teens and crime? Some Chestnut Hill neighbors have fears that loitering and robberies will increase if Chill on the Hill comes to East Highland Avenue.

A bit of a debate ensued as business partners, Alison Shoemaker and Leslie Newbold brought their vision for an upscale family-friendly, eco-conscious food establishment before Chestnut Hill Community Association’s Development Review Committee (DRC) Tuesday night.

Shoemaker and Newbold intend Chill on the Hill to be a self-serve frozen yogurt shop which would offer 10 flavors, including one which would be sugar-free and one which would be organic. Customers will be able to embellish their frozen treats with 30 different toppings. Most unique about the concept is that Shoemaker and Newbold intend for the store to create “almost no waste” by using compostable spoons, cups and napkins. The two women explained to DRC members that there would be three waste receptacles inside the shop – one designated for compost, one for recycling and one for garbage. Indoor seating would be limited to five tables. No outdoor seating is planned.

Shoemaker and Newbold told the committee that they have the support of 30 neighbors – some of whom were present – however, several in attendance were quite vocal with worries that the shop’s anticipated business hours will exacerbate existing loitering and crime problems. Shoemaker and Newbold hope to be open from 12 – 9 p.m. on weekdays and until 10 p.m. on weekends.

Near-neighbor Carol Michaels of the 8400 block of Ardleigh Street shared that she was “concerned about the hours in particular.” Michaels feels the shop could become a teenage hang-out, better suited for a Germantown Avenue location. “We fear that Ardleigh may become an escape corridor for crime.” Michaels recently found the discarded wig used in the robbery of Delphine Gallery on her front lawn.

Much of the uneasiness involves the parking lot on Highland Avenue between Germantown Avenue and Ardleigh Street. Neighbors described it as a place where teens already loiter. “The hours would encourage that behavior,” voiced near-neighbor and CHCA board member, Laura Lucas.

DRC Co-Chair, Larry McEwan noted that the concerns presented are ones that “are already happening” and should be addressed and solved independently of issues regarding the business’ operational features. Committee member, Tom Hemphill agreed, “Solving something with that parking lot is where to begin.”

Though the former Balance Gym site is commercially zoned, Shoemaker and Newbold need a variance in order to offer take-out food. The process to win community support begins with a presentation of the business plan so that the DRC may hear concerns, after which the committee makes recommendations and referrals to CHCA’s sub-committees.

DRC members referred Chill on the Hill’s application to the Land Use Planning and Zoning (LUPZ) and the Aesthetics committees.

Chill on the Hill will go before the DRC again with their recommendations.

Gaining the DRC’s support will be key in whether the CHCA Board gives its approval to the city’s Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA). In the best case scenario, the entire process could take about one month.

Other Business

PrimoHoagies is set to open this autumn at 51 Bethlehem Pike, next door to Spa Elysium. Proprietor, Mike Pieciuk told DRC members that his sandwich shop will differ from others in the franchise by offering a sports-themed, sit-down restaurant. Pieciuk said the space has seating for 20 people.

He stated that that he has no intention of making any changes to the building’s current facade, which features a multi-paned glass window. DRC members recommended that Piechuk, who does need a variance, meet with the Aesthetics Committee for advice concerning signage. He hopes to be open by mid-October.

Dr. Sue Oleszewski, Vice-President of Patient Care Services, of The Eye Institute of the Pennsylvania College of Optometry at Salus University (TEI) presented slides showcasing the awning and signage the optometry business has planned for its new Chestnut Hill branch. TEI will relocate from Mt. Airy to 7630 Germatown Avenue, site of the former TLA Video, on September 5.

TEI’s designs are based on recommendations made by CHCA’s Aesthetics’ Committee. The color for the cloth awning will be New London Burgundy with lettering in Revere Gray. The awning will feature EI’s logo and be illuminated from above by goose-neck lighting.

Some of the committee members expressed dismay over the awning. “I don’t think this facade speaks that well to your business,” stated John Landis. Aesthetics Committee members, Patricia Cove and Jane Piiotrowski remarked that they were very pleased with the designs and consider it a first step in addressing curb appeal for the plaza.

In the end, DRC members voted to approve the awning and signage with the recommendation that TEI meet again with the Aesthetics Committee to review window screening of its records room.

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