Chestnut Hill Community Association’s lower committees endorse 8200 Germantown Ave. project

 

At long last, it’s decision time for the Chestnut Hill Community Association on the 8200 Germantown Ave. proposals, as its committees voted to approve the plan ahead of a City Council vote next week.

At consecutive meetings Wednesday night, both the Land Use, Planning and Zoning (LUPZ) and Development Review committees voted by solid margins to approve Bowman Properties’ plan for the former Magarity property, with the condition that the developer abide by a pending community development agreement. 

The board’s Traffic, Transportation and Transit and Historic District Advisory committees have also signed off. The committee recommendations are now passed along to the full CHCA board, which is expected to take its own formal vote on the plan at a special meeting next week. 

Board members met before a full room at the Chestnut Hill Hospital, where residents who have spoken for and against the plan largely re-stated their positions. Terry Halbert offered the petitions she’s gathered on a petition against the project, and urged the board to give neighbors more time to consider the most recent changes to Bowman’s plan, which was revealed only last last week.

 In the end, with City Council set to vote next week on changes to the zoning laws governing the site that would clear the way for the development, it was clear committee members were ready to move the process forward. 

 

What Bowman Properties wants to build

Bowman’s project would see a 59 foot-high, five-story structure along Germantown Avenue with retail at ground level and terraced floors of 17 condo units above. Each story would step back from the street, making the fifth-floor terrace set back more than 20 feet from the ground floor. 

Also on the site will be a 20,000-square foot grocery store, The Fresh Market, with 85 parking spaces, and eight townhouses in the rear fronting Shawnee Street and Pastorious Park. The $30 million project is headed by Bowman’s managing partner, Richard Snowden, who has attended several meetings to answer public questions on the plan. 

 

The dissenting votes

A subcommittee made up of CHCA members and three neighbor representatives also took a vote and also approved the Bowman plan by a 6-2 margin, though member Lee Foulkrod declined to say which members voted against.

For months, the subcommittee members have been meeting with Bowman representatives negotiating various design details and items of concern, particularly overall height, building setbacks and site density.

Overall, Foulkrod expressed a sentiment shared by some CHCA committee members, including LUPZ and DRC member Cynthia Brey, who voted against the plan: that the entire process took far too long, with too little result. While negotiations resulted in some alterations to landscaping and design elements, the major program elements are essentially unchanged.

 “They are minor changes, but we think that they are substantial changes,” said LUPZ co-chair John Landis. “We feel that they will substantially improve the project. They may be minor but they’re important.”

While Bowman at one point suggested a six-story alternative for the Germantown Avenue structure, the original proposal included five stories — as does the latest version — though with an original overall height of 65 feet. The number of townhouses at the rear of the site, fronting Pastorious Park was reduced by one from the original nine, but more condos were added.

Other negotiated changes include a three foot setback from Hartwell Lane at street level, the addition of a pocket park at the entrance to the “Market Lane” access drive into the Fresh Market parking lot, additional parking for the condos, and additional trees and landscaping throughout and additional setback from Shawnee Street for the townhouses.

In general, the months of discussions about the Bowman proposal have revealed that while many in Chestnut Hill agree that a mixed-use development that would bring more residents to Germantown Avenue is the way to go, deep misgivings remain about the overall size.

“It’s the right project — on steroids,” Brey said.

The CHCA board will meet at 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 12, at Chestnut Hill Hospital.

 

*Revised story 12/9 to show the proposed buffer zone on Hartwell Lane will be three-feet.

 

Contact Amy Z. Quinn at azquinn@planphilly.com

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