Baker Street row home renovation project meets opposition

Residents at the Manayunk Neighborhood Council’s general meeting Wednesday night expressed concerns about a proposed renovation project on Baker Street.

The run-down row home at 4504 Baker St. has, for decades, been illegally divided into three apartments. Area resident David Branigan, the property’s new owner, would like to legalize the triplex, restore it and make some changes to the layout.

“It’ll be the same number of units, the same number of square feet. Three units on three floors,” explained Branigan’s lawyer, William O’Brien.

That fact, though seemingly innocuous, is what stirred many in the small crowd gathered inside the Venice Island Recreation Center.

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John Hunter, the Council’s vice president, said the property presents the opportunity to improve the building’s misguided design which includes a very cramped first floor apartment.

“What we’re doing is saying ‘What’s in it for the local neighborhood that gives them some benefit and what you’re doing is saying ‘What we’re doing is to perpetuate what’s there’,” said Hunter.

Hunter and others suggested the building’s three units could be converted into two units or even back to its intended use as a single-family home.

Darlene Messina said she isn’t interested in having yet another rental property in the neighborhood.

“I’m not anti-renters in general, but in Manayunk, they’re very transient and it does not help stabilize the neighborhood,” she said.

Residents also shared concerns about lack of parking on the short stretch just off the corner of Green Lane. As planned, the building would add five new tenants to the street with two on the second and third floors.

O’Brien said the group’s concerns were unreasonable and unwarranted.

“This is not a full meeting with 30 to 40 people. It’s the core group of folks that are trying to do everything they can to change Manayunk to the way it was 50 years ago,” said O’Brien.

“It’s not that way anymore,” he added.

The Council did not vote on the renovation. Instead, O’Brien will ask for a continuance from the Zoning Board of Adjustment so he can present more details to residents at a future MNC meeting.

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