State Representative Rosita Youngblood yesterday sent letters to federal state and local officials asking for a halt to work at a grocery store development in Germantown.
The letter about the controversial project called Chelten Plaza went out to Mayor Michael Nutter, all the Philadelphia City Council people and Fran Burns, head of the Department of Licenses and Inspections. Youngblood cites environmental concerns and worries over adherence to other state and local regulations.
In particular, Youngblood mentioned a concern that $3 million in tax-payer funded development grants for the project may not be getting what they were meant for.
Developer and grocery store operator Pat Burns originally planned to build a new full service Fresh Grocer at the corner of Chelten and Pulaski avenues but he only managed a partially renovated store that closed earlier this year without warning. Many community members were not happy when the news came out that the smaller, discount chain Save-A-Lot would be anchoring the development.
“He [Burns] has not consulted the community on any front,” Youngblood said in an interview. “If you’re getting this money why didn’t you do the original plan… because it is apparent to me that there is a need for a large grocery store [in the neighborhood].”
In a separate interview Burns has said he did not believe a full service market would be able to survive at the site.
Youngblood also cited concerns about possible environmental dangers with the project. Earlier, Burns said there was asbestos that needed to be removed at the site. Youngblood wants to get Environmental Protection Agency inspectors out there to make sure guidelines are being followed. But above all, Youngblood felt that a project with $3 million in state funding should not have been a surprise to her or the community.
“Every time I think about it I just get upset that you don’t care. As long as you can do what ever you want nobody else matters,” Youngblood said, referring to Burns.
Burns met with City Councilwoman Donna Reed Miller about the project last summer, but apparently no one from Miller’s office contacted community leaders or Youngblood, whose district includes the Chelten Plaza. Burns said that meeting did not include a discussion of the Save-A-Lot store.
The plan also includes a large Dollar Tree as the other anchor tenant with several smaller storefronts that are not yet filled. In a statement released today, Burns said his project is in compliance with all state and federal regulations, and despite continued criticism over design and store choice, Burns believes the Chelten Plaza will help the neighborhood.
“We believe that our proposed development will invite further commercial and residential investment and development in the area,” the statement reads.
Youngblood and Burns have a meeting today at 4 p.m. to work out their differences.
Later, at 7 p.m. Burns will attend a Germantown Community Connection meeting about the Chelten Plaza at First Presbyterian Church (35 West Chelten).