Smooth ride through Rules for Temple U. and Model Cities; rougher for The Granary

Before Philadelphia City Council’s Rules Committee screened five minutes of the television show “Wreck Chasers” and kicked off a lively discussion of the tow truck industry, it warmed up Tuesday morning by tackling some zoning bills. The ongoing expansion of Temple University’s campus met with success, as did adding a number of properties to Philadelphia’s Model Cities Urban Renewal Area. But The Granary redevelopment project met with some neighborhood opposition over parking concerns in Logan Square.

Anthony Wagner, Temple’s chief financial officer, testified before the committee, seeking a change to its institutional development district (IDD) map to accommodate a new building on North 13th Street for its architecture program. In addition, Temple asked the committee to change the zoning of a block bounded by Broad Street, Cecil B. Moore Avenue, Park Avenue, and Oxford Street, where it plans a substantial new dormitory. That block would be added to the IDD map. Kenneth Lawrence, who oversees community relations for Temple, testified that the Yorktown Residents Association and Jefferson Manor both issued letters of support. Councilman Darrell Clarke said that the basis of their support was that Temple students may be drawn back out of Yorktown and into campus housing.

The amendment to the Model Cities Urban Renewal Area went smoothly as well. Fifteen new properties will be covered under the amendment to the redevelopment plan. Councilman Clarke and Councilwoman Maria D. Quiñones-Sanchez sponsored the changes, and Ed Covington, the executive director of the Redevleopment Authority, testified in support of the project.

Pearl Properties’ The Granary project had a bumpier ride. The developer has revised its much-criticized proposal from earlier this year. Principals Reed Slogoff and James Pearlstein testified that rezoning of the lots for the project was required in order to reflect its use. They argued that they have the support of the Philadelphia Historical Commission (the project repurposes Philadelphia’s last remaining grain elevator) and in a bit of zoning-ese, Slogoff said that “The Logan Square Neighborhood Association (LSNA) has indicated their unanimous non-opposition to the project” following a series of discussions.

But some concerns remain, largely over parking and traffic. Councilman William Greenlee described the area as “a little parking challenged,” and questioned whether providing parking at a rate of one space per two units was sufficient. Slogoff replied that in the Philadelphia rental buildings Pearl Property has developed, “maybe 20 percent of our residents have a car, maybe less.”

Logan Square residents Jovida Hill and Ashely Angert testified against the zoning changes. Hill lives very near the project, in the 400 block of North 20th Street. She said that LSNA issued it’s letter of non-opposition prematurely, and suggested the developers were seeking spot zoning to avoid an increased minimum parking requirement. Angert said he lives next to the project. He said that the zoning calls for a rate of 0.7 parking spots per residential unit, and is concerned that the valet parking proposed for the site will stack up cars on 20th Street.

Ed Panek and Sam Little from LSNA said that the group held nine meetings with the developers to discuss neighborhood concerns, and that the developer has been responsive to them. Panek said that LSNA would like to finalize a neighborhood development plan before the zoning changes move forward, and Little suggested the remaining issues could be solved by December 9.

Councilman Clarke, who introduced the bill, asked that it be held in committee and revisited on November 29, to give LSNA and Pearl time to further discuss the parking issue, even though all who testified agreed that the project, generally, should move forward.

“I believe community residents should have the opportunity to have significant input. The closer you live to the project, frankly, the more I listen,” Clarke said.

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