Manayunk Neighborhood Council approves two development proposals near Main St.

In a deft display of civic cooperation, members of the Manayunk Neighborhood Council signaled support to several different proposals taking shape in their district at Wednesday night’s monthly meeting. 

Cresson St. property conversions 

Much of the evening’s discussion was centered on a plan to convert two structures on Cresson St. into multi-family residences.

Under the proposal, two adjoining plots on the 4100 block on Cresson St. – currently home to a garage and the former Italian Republican Club of Manayunk – would each be converted into twin three-story, two-family homes, with the ground floors of each capable of accommodating four parked cars.

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His clients seek approval for a zoning variance for the site, which is currently zoned for single-family usage.

Resident’s concerns came in several forms, but the most persistent complaint was in regard to the building’s three-story height.

At present, the garage is one story and the Italian club is two stories. Under the developer’s proposal, each would be brought to three stories, with the front façade being approximately 40 feet in height.

Philadelphia zoning code allows for 35-feet structures. O’Brien responded that while both buildings would be forty feet in front, the slope of the plot results in the rear wall being significantly lower, thus allowing an “average” height of 35 feet – thereby meeting zoning specifications.

Residents of neighboring properties were unshaken by these rejoinders, and presented Kevin Smith, MNC’s president, with a petition containing more than three dozen signatures protesting the proposed development’s height.

Despite these residents’ concerns, the membership of MNC voted to support the development, construction for which is scheduled to begin in June, according to O’Brien.

The plan goes before the zoning board on April 25.

Repurposing the former Propper Brothers site  

It was a busy night for O’Brien – he also represented Sam Kroungold, owner of the Propper Brothers furniture store on Levering St.

The building itself dates to 1888, according to O’Brien. Kroungold has owned the property since 1972, but with the declining viability of the site for furniture retail, he is seeking to repurpose the upper floors as apartments, while the yoga studio and Palm Tree Market in the first floor remain.

Kroungold seeks to install 18 one and two-bedroom apartments, which he said would be priced between $1,500 and $1,800.

There are, however, two zoning issues to address – insufficient rear yard space, and problems stemming from the yoga studio, which is categorized as an “athletic hall,” according to O’Brien, both of which require variances.

Residents expressed concern about the impact of additional housing on limited street parking.

Kroungold indicated that these concerns had already been addressed. Included in the rental of each apartment is a dedicated parking space in one of two Manayunk commercial parking lots.

Smith was quick to point out that the rent automatically includes parking, removing the incentive for renters to opt out and seek free street parking.

In addition, Kroungold said he has received the blessing of the Mural Arts Program for the new usage, and that the present mural will remain, and that any windows added will not obscure the imagery.

Concluding his presentation, Kroungold reinforced his intentions to preserve both the building and his relationship with the community.

“I’ve got too much respect for this old grand dame,” he said. “I’m going to try to do what’s right.”

MNC voted unanimously to support the project. The proposal goes before the zoning board on April 11. 

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