Philadelphia Cricket Club looks to upgrade St. Martins campus

The Philadelphia Cricket Club is seeking community support of its plans to make a trio of improvements at its St. Martins Clubhouse in Chestnut Hill.

Officials with the branch, located at 415 W. Willow Ave., discussed the club’s intentions during a recent meeting of the Chestnut Hill Community Association’s Development Review Committee.

Jeff Beck, vice president of the St. Martins campus, said maintaining and growing membership is propelling the upgrades.

“We try to keep the footprint as internal as possible. We really try to use existing facilities as much as we could,” he said.

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The upgrades

One of the improvements involves rearranging the club’s paddle tennis courts so that the sun is less disruptive during gameplay, according to architect Martin Kimmel, of Kimmel Bogrette Architecture + Site, who reviewed the club’s plans during the Tuesday night event.

As part of that portion of the plan, the club also wants to erect a new air-conditioned tennis pavilion that would be bounded on either side by covered open-air seating. Currently, there is a “tennis hut” supplemented by an adjoining open tent.

Kimmel said plans also include re-grading the court to lower them by four feet.

The project also includes an addition which would enlarge the building that houses the club’s squash courts and facilities.

The expansion would provide additional space for squash courts as well as social space. It would also feature a pro shop and help to improve the egress to the women’s locker rooms from the courts.

The third change the club intends is to move the infant swimming pool away from its current spot near a driveway where there is traffic and idling vehicles. Its new location would situate the rear of the swimming area by the lounging lawn.

Speaking to DRC concerns about the need for more parking should membership levels increase, Tim Muessle, the club’s general manager, said the majority of the project’s improvements are for the club’s youth membership and, as such, would not necessitate more parking spaces.

No new parking is being proposed.

Zoning issues

Some elements of the club’s plans will require approval from the city’s Zoning Board of Adjustment.

As a result of the project, the club’s impervious lot coverage will increase by two percent – about 14,000 square feet.

“We think that’s a technical issue,” explained Carl Primavera, an attorney representing the club.

Primavera noted that the club’s adjoining soccer field is considered to be on a separate lot and was not factored into the calculations. Combined, the two parcels surpass Wissahickon watershed requirements.

“We ultimately plan to relocate lot lines with the city surveyor to make it one parcel,” said Primavera.

To address issues with runoff, the project also includes creating a rain garden to improve storm water management and increase habitat diversity. Kimmel told DRC members that no storm water management structures currently exist on the property.

The club will be working with the Morris Arboretum to bring native plantings to the rain garden.

The height of the addition is another zoning issue.

DRC members were assured that the height will be similar to that of the main clubhouse.

Kimmel said the roofline will be similar to the existing building’s and will feature glass roof monitors to add interest and bring daylight into the center of building. The monitors would complement the ones found above the adjacent men’s locker room and one will serve to obscure ventilation equipment from public view, he said.

“If you look at it, it almost reflects the old pictures before the fire” in the main clubhouse, said Muessle.

On April 5 1943, a fire destroyed the clubhouse’s second and third floors.

The last zoning item involves the height of the wrought iron fencing that marks the club’s perimeter along Willow Grove Avenue.

Primavera said the fence is more than 100 years old and zoning approval is simply a matter of legalization of an existing structure which had never been on the books.

Next steps

If all goes well and the club wins approval at its Dec 19 ZBA hearing, construction will begin in March 2013.

The proposal has so far so far received the unanimous support of 40 near neighbors, including Springside Academy and the Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields.

The DRC recommended that the club next present its designs to the Land Use Planning and Zoning (LUPZ) Committee, together with letters of support from neighbors on Hartwell and St. Martins Lanes.

The Philadelphia Cricket Club will also present its plans before Chestnut Hill’s Historic District Advisory Committee

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