Planning Commission approves rezoning for Italian Market apartment project

The Planning Commission voted on Tuesday to recommend a bill that would allow a 70-unit apartment complex to rise at 9th Street and Washington Avenue in the Italian Market.

The project, a 5-story ditty with 18,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor and two levels of underground parking, was presented to Passyunk Square Civic Association earlier this year. The developers, Midwood Investment & Development, are planning to hold another meeting with the community group before the bill goes to a committee hearing in City Council, probably sometime next month. The project would replace Anastasi’s, a seafood restaurant that Midwood says it will try to bring back as a tenant in the new building, and the largest vacant lot in the Italian Market.

In recommending the bill, which rezones the lot from CMX-2 to CMX-3, the Planning Commission mulled over the following questions.

Does the project reflect the direction that residents and planners think the neighborhood should be headed while respecting the surrounding environment?

Yes, the Commission reasoned. There seems to be general if not universal consensus that Washington Avenue could handle a bit more residential and commercial density, and there’s even greater consensus that the Italian Market could handle a bit more parking capacity, especially if it’s placed below ground. The project is 5 stories at the southeast corner of 9th Street and Washington Avenue, with commercial space along the ground floor of both frontages. It steps down to some lower townhomes along Darien Street, the eastern boundary of the site, to fit in with the existing homes on the other side of that street.

Should the Planning Commission recommend legislative rezonings, spot zonings, of single properties that are introduced with specific projects in mind?

A bit trickier, perhaps. The Commission had just, minutes earlier, finished recommending a bill that would do the opposite of the bill at hand.

Some background is in order: that earlier bill plays into a long and boring saga related to Finnigan’s Wake, a bar and local Democratic Party outpost at 3rd and Spring Garden streets in Northern Liberties. Earlier this year, Council approved, with the Planning Commission’s endorsement, a bill rezoning the Finnigan’s Wake site from CMX-2 to CMX-3 in anticipation of a planned conversion of the bar into a 5-story office complex.

On Tuesday—you couldn’t make this up, and why would you want to?—the Commission was considering a bill that would undo the earlier rezoning, introduced by Councilman Mark Squilla because the office project had fallen through.

After some discussion, the Commission voted to recommend approving the bill that would repeal the bill that the Commission had recommended approving. Though some Commissioners pointed out this was a strange way to plan, they ultimately decided that the Finnigan’s Wake property might as well be in conformity with the surrounding properties on the north side of Spring Garden—CMX-2, to wit, rather than CMX-3.

Final score, pending Council approval: 9th and Washington up-zoned from CMX-2 to CMX-3 for a proposed apartment project, 3rd and Spring Garden down-zoned from CMX-3 to CMX-2 to fit the surrounding zoning designations.

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal