Construction to begin within a month on former Magarity site in Chestnut Hill

 A view of 8200 Germantown Ave. before it was demolished. (Neema Roshania/WHYY)

A view of 8200 Germantown Ave. before it was demolished. (Neema Roshania/WHYY)

Two years after Chestnut Hill residents and Bowman Properties began the fight over what would happen at 8200 Germantown – site of the former Magarity Ford – all parties are at peace and construction will soon begin.

Within three to five weeks, after the builder completes the approvals process, excavation and site work will start on developer Richard Snowden’s $30 million retail/residential project, according to developing consultant Seth Shapiro.

Demolition of the long-vacant car dealership building was completed weeks ago, and all the permits have been filed for the new development, which will be anchored by a Fresh Market grocery and include 17 condominiums on the four floors above it.

Because the site includes underground parking, passers-by won’t see the initial phase of the work. “Vertical construction” will be evident by year’s end, Shapiro said. The retail and residential building will be completed in an “18-month construction cycle.”

Bowman negotiated with the Chestnut Hill Community Association and a group of neighbors for many months on the project and how construction would proceed.

“That resulted in a written agreement which addresses a variety of things, including the building footprint, height and materials of construction,” Shapiro said. “It also includes operating covenants, such as construction operations and retail operations. Signage and landscaping are also addressed. There were compromises on both sides in reaching agreement.”

Attorney Daniel McElhatton, of McElatton Foley, was engaged by a group of 12 residents, calling themselves the Adjacent Neighbors Association, in 2011 to represent their concerns over the project. The neighbors’ battle included challenging a City Council bill that changed the zoning of the property to allow Bowman’s proposals for the site. At the time, McElhatton called it “unconstitutional spot zoning.”

The neighbors’ challenge to the zoning legislation was denied by the Court of Common Pleas.

“The community then agreed to see what compromises could be made,” McElhatton said. “There were questions about lowering the density of the residential units, and Bowman agreed on that. And Bowman made other concessions. CHCA is charged with monitoring the operations, such as the way trucks load and unload, and if the hours were inappropriate. Bowman acknowledged that our client has standing to enforce those issues as well.”

“Overall, it was an agreement that all the parties felt was appropriate to allow the development to go through,” McElhatton said.

There are still concerns, he said, such as the impact of construction on traffic. “There are always logistical issues during the construction period – the level of dust and debris; how are they cleaning up – that will always arise.”

NewsWorks has partnered with independent news gatherer PlanPhilly to provide regular, in-depth, timely coverage of planning, zoning and development news. Contact Alan Jaffe at ajaffe@planphilly.com.

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