Bowman Properties’ Fresh Market complex could take 18 months to build

Demolition on the old Magarity auto dealership building could begin in the fall, with construction of Bowman Properties’ retail-residential 8200 Germantown Ave. project lasting about 18 months, project officials say.

At its Tuesday night meeting, the Chestnut Hill Community Association’s Land Use, Planning and Zoning committee got an update on project schematics and architectural design. Bowman Properties’ lead architect, Charles Keefer, appeared to discuss additional minor changes made after suggestions from a recently-formed LUPZ technical review committee.

Keefer said Bowman is now in the process of selecting contractors to bid on the job, and looks for a late-fall start date for demolition. It’s unclear at what point the Fresh Market would move into its 20,000 square foot space, as it depends on the timing of the building’s completion.

With zoning in place and a community agreement settled to address neighbors’ concerns, what’s left are details, and the continuing talks with the CHCA’s committees involve things like facade materials, the design of decorative elements, and other minor points. The latest version of plans was submitted in May, and since then a few changes have been made, including placement of four “rain gardens,” and the addition of planted green roofs on the third and fifth floors of the retail-condo building that will front Germantown Avenue.

On the design front, architect Stan Runyan said most of the changes since May were minor, with facade materials still focused on schist, brick and bluestone. One alteration saw a long bay along the “Market Lane” driveway that accesses the grocery store from Germantown Avenue flattened out rather than projecting four feet out from the structure, and the addition of three window openings along the rear loading-dock area, fronting Shawnee Street.

Some LUPZ members said they remained concerned about the amount of brick used on the building’s exterior and whether it enhances the illusion of size. Runyan said the mix of materials, including the use of schist on the first seven feet from ground level, was meant to alleviate that by breaking up the spaces visually. And the fifth-floor condo units, which sit more than 20 feet back from Germantown Avenue, will not be covered in brick, to lessen their visual impact.

LUPZ member John Landis said the changes are good, but he’s still concerned. “It’s still a whole lot of brick, big brick faces on Hartwell and Shawnee,” he said.

Joyce Lenhardt, who is chairing the technical review committee, said the group would review the latest update points and issue a letter with comments and questions back to Bowman. One change she cited as a “significant improvement” is that the row of townhouses at the rear of the project will now sit five feet back from Shawnee Street, rather than the three originally proposed.

However, the townhouses will come in the second phase of the development, after completion of the grocery store, retail spaces along Germantown Avenue and condo units above, project officials have said.

Also Tuesday, the committee voted to support applications for zoning variances that would allow the Springside Academy Chestnut Hill, 585 Willow Grove Ave., to improve its athletic fields and sports facilities. Work would replace existing aluminum bleachers and portable bathrooms with a newly-built seating section with a new locker-room and storage structure with locker rooms and storage beneath.

Also, the tennis courts will be upgraded with a pavilion, and walkways and paths throughout the sports part of the campus will be improved, Springside representative Henry O’Reilly said.

The Springside project already gained the approval of the association’s Development Review Committee in June. At that meeting, the Chestnut Hill Local reported, ward leader Louis Agre challenged the worthiness of the construction company slated to do the job. But that didn’t come up at the LUPZ.

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

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