Ridge Flats proposal heads to zoning board next month

 Ridge Flats, located at the site of the former Rivage Ballroom in East Falls, will consist of 146 apartment units and 9,300 square feet of retail space. (Photo courtesy of Onion Flats)

Ridge Flats, located at the site of the former Rivage Ballroom in East Falls, will consist of 146 apartment units and 9,300 square feet of retail space. (Photo courtesy of Onion Flats)

A small crowd gathered at Philadelphia University on Wednesday as the East Falls Community Council (EFCC) Zoning Committee held their final public meeting to discuss the proposed Ridge Flats project before it goes before the Philadelphia Zoning Board of Adjustment next month. 

The proposed five-story project, designed by Philadelphia-based developer Onion Flats for the intersection of Midvale and Ridge avenues, would be a net-zero energy development and feature 146 apartments, commercial space and a public rain garden. 

Despite the many unique features of the project, including solar panels and an interior courtyard on the second floor, the evening’s biggest debate revolved around the amount of parking spaces that would be available. The current design would provide 120 on-site parking spaces in a first floor garage (of which seven would be for ZipCars) and 11 on-street parking spaces. 

Timothy McDonald, one of the founders of Onion Flats, said he thinks they have the “appropriate amount of parking relative to the residents that are here and relative to the ideas of transit-oriented development that we are interested in and the city is interested in.”

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East Falls resident Edan Cohen, who brought his own flyer illustrating the locations of 36 more on-street parking spots within one-and-a-half blocks of the proposed Ridge Flats site, said that the building shouldn’t need a lot of parking.

“It’s a city, not a suburban community,” he said. “Why are we treating it that way?”

Christine Spino, also of East Falls, said she would like to see the building offer at least one parking spot for every apartment. She noted that it would be difficult for residents to go to a grocery store and questioned whether ZipCars would be too expensive for the building’s residents.

McDonald also addressed other questions from the community, including public access to the interior courtyard. He noted that the courtyard would not be accessible to the public “due to security risks,” but the 7,837 square foot rain garden would be open to the public.

The process of loading and unloading trucks was also questioned, with McDonald stating that these activities would be handled in the interior parking garage. Trash and recycling containers will also be located on one corner of the garage.

In regards to construction, McDonald said they hope to begin in late 2013 or early 2014 and the process is expected to take 12 to 18 months on a budget that is “hovering around $30 million.” Any construction is pending the approval of several zoning ordinances by the Philadelphia Zoning Board of Adjustment. 

Once the building is open, the apartments are expected to rent from $1,300 to $2,000 a month.

Once the public meeting adjourned, the EFCC Zoning Committee met in closed session for approximately an hour. EFCC President Barnaby Wittels said that the committee voted on the Ridge Flats proposal but wanted to talk with Onion Flats again before disclosing the results publicly.

The Philadelphia Zoning Board of Adjustment hearing will be held on Aug. 7, at 2 p.m.

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