Garrett-Dunn condo project in Mt. Airy to file for ZBA review

Plans for a residential development at the former site of the historic Garrett-Dunn House in Mt. Airy could move forward soon, the developer said this week.

Andrew Eisenstein of Iron Stone Strategic Capital Partners said final details on a site plan for 7048 Germantown Ave. are nearly complete and a formal Zoning Board of Adjustment application could be filed by the end of this month.

Iron Stone will seek a zoning change to allow for the building of townhouses and apartments. The 1.5-acre site, just north of the Acme, is currently zoned ASC, which allows shopping centers, and is subject to two overlays: the Wissahickon Watershed controls on land coverage; and Germantown Avenue controls, which limit the projection of signs from buildings to 12 inches.

Earlier this year, Iron Stone representatives met with local community groups to discuss a plan for 26 three-story townhouses on the site. Since then, the design has changed somewhat to reflect their input, but reflects Eisenstein’s previously-stated desire to attract a mix of younger families and empty-nesters.

“The latest plans include townhomes and flats in two buildings, with a total of 12 units in the flats,” Eisenstein told Plan Philly. “The site is very green and the plans for the homes include very efficient and thoughtful layouts.”

The Garrett-Dunn House was built in 1834-35 for 19th century tobacco and snuff merchant George Howell Garrett. Once a gracious summer retreat on the edge of the city, the site is currently an overgrown lot behind chain-link fence. The Italianate-style summer cottage was designed by architect Thomas Ustick Walter, who also created Girard College’s Founders Hall and parts of the U.S. Capitol.

The house was one of only two remaining examples of Walter’s residential buildings, and was listed the National Register of Historic Places. It was added to the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places in 2006 after opponents of a previous development plan discovered its link to the famed architect.

In a dramatic twist, the house was struck by lightning and burned nearly to the ground in a fire on Aug. 2, 2009. Iron Stone bought the property at sheriff sale in May, 2010 for $560,000.

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