Mixed reviews from design committee for charter school, residential projects

Blackstone Development’s proposal for a 76-unit apartment complex on a formerly industrial vacant lot in South Kensington hit a roadblock yesterday, when the Civic Design Review (CDR) Committee asked the developers to present the project a second time, after wrapping up meetings with community groups.

Planning Commission staffers worried that the project, at 1222 North 2nd Street, is too dense for its site, with 99 percent lot coverage. The developers are taking advantage of the extra density allowed in the industrial zone, even though they are designing a residential project. A residential zoning category would require 20 percent open area.

Members of South Kensington Community Partners had concerns about the density and open area of the project as well, though they noted that the group hadn’t yet voted to support or oppose the project. Hercules Grigos, an attorney representing the developers, said they were trying to deal with an awkward triangular site.

“We all deal with triangular sites,” said Cecil Baker, a member of the CDR Committee. “Every architect in the city deals with difficult sites. It’s not an excuse for anything.”

The Committee ultimately asked Blackstone to present the project again in April, after meeting again with SKCP. The project is scheduled to be heard by the Zoning Board of Adjustment on April 6th.

The CDR Committee also asked Tevel Management to revise and resubmit its proposal for a 111-unit apartment complex at 20th and Logan streets near Wister Woods Park. That project is designed on an awkward site as well, with a steep hill on one side of the property. Committee members said that the proposed 8-foot fence around the property—taller than the code allows—would give the project a feeling of being in unsafe terrain.

Though it’s not in the Committee’s purview, members also noted that the living rooms in the apartments wouldn’t have natural light, and that the bathrooms were awkwardly placed relative to the bedrooms. Baker said the project scares him. A representative from CKG Architects said he didn’t know how to respond to that, but would try to take the Committee’s comments under consideration before the next presentation.

The Committee agreed to complete the review process for two other projects.

MaST Charter is planning a school on a piece of waterfront land near Lardner’s Point Park and the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge in Tacony. The project would have two buildings and 256 parking spaces, with athletic fields for the school’s use and riverfront trail space accessible to the public. The project would be built in two phases, with an elementary school first and a facility serving grades 6-12 second.

The site is zoned for residential mixed use, but previously served as the home of Dodge Steel and Tacony Ironworks. The statue of William Penn that stands on top of City Hall was manufactured there.

At 5364 Jackson Street in Northeast Philly, New Courtland Elder Services is planning a 144-unit senior independent living center. The project is being built on a 1.5-acre site currently owned by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. The project is being developed with low-income housing tax credits and New Market Tax Credits. It’s scheduled for a zoning hearing on March 16th. 

Note: A previous version of this article misidentified the location of the New Courtland Elder Services Center. It is at 5364 Jackson Street, not at the corner of 53rd and Jackson. PlanPhilly regrets the fairly glaring error.

5364 Jackson Street | Blackney Hayes Architects
5364 Jackson Street | Blackney Hayes Architects

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