WNCA turns down Terrace Street project modification, expresses interest in townhome project on same block

On Monday night, members of the Wissahickon Neighbors Civic Association talked “Terrace,” saying “No!” to a proposed modification of a building currently undergoing rehabilitation.

In addition, WNCA expressed interest in a project on the same block that could result in the development of high-end townhomes, in lieu of an earlier-approved multi-unit condominium project.

Polish Falcons modification proposal 

Nicolas DiGiulio from Villa Development made his pitch for altering an existing deed variance on his property on the 3800 block of Terrace Street – better known as the “Polish Falcons.”

DiGiulio and his partners expressed interest in changing six of the building’s seven planned units to three bedrooms, according to Andrew Bantly, president of WNCA.

The building already has approval to build seven two-bedroom units. The reason for the modification, said DiGiulio, was that banks are more inclined to issue financing for projects that incorporate units with additional sleeping space.

DiGiulio stated that the units – which vary in size from 1,800 to 2,000 square feet – are expected to sell for between $350,000 and $400,000.

Asked for his intentions regarding the units, DiGiulio said that the developers intend to sell – not rent – the units, but observed that there was no law preventing unit owners from renting independently.

DiGiulio encountered strong opposition to proposed plans for parking.

At present, the building has accommodation for nine parked cars – with each space assigned to a specific unit. WNCA protocol is to require one parking space for two-bedroom units and two spaces for three-bedroom units, which under DiGiuilo’s plan, would fall short by several spaces.

This deficit, WNCA members observed, would be absorbed into already-taxed street parking.

Unable to satisfy a membership passionate about parking, DiGiulio’s plans lost their bid for approval by a five to one margin.

Regardless of the vote for additional bedrooms, development of the Polish Falcons will continue unabated, as Bantly noted that current plans for 2-bedroom units were approved by WNCA in 2004.

Condominiums on Terrace 

There was additional dialogue about what attorney Ron Patterson referred to as “another hot property” on the 3800 block of Terrace St. – the “Terrace Hall” condominium project.

Patterson – along with developer Glenn Falso – stood before WNCA to, in Falso’s words, “float the balloon,” about the complete recasting of an existing plan to build a 50-unit condominium project on the street.

Patterson and Falso offered details about an alternative proposal for the property, which would build fourteen four-story attached townhomes on the site instead of the multi-unit building.

To do so, Patterson explained, the developers would need a zoning variance to the location, which is currently designated L4A – light industrial – which allows for both manufacturing and commercial usage, but not residential.

If the project comes together, Patterson said that his clients would seek a variance to R10A – i.e. residential zoning.

Patterson continued with details about the alternative design.

The fourteen townhomes – each with a roof deck – would have two parking spaces and would be set back approximately 30 feet from the curb line.

Whatever the outcome of the building, Patterson indicated, the extant plan for the 50-unit condo is valid until July of 2013.

Targeting the Main Line downsizing demographic 

Representing the developer’s interests, Falso provided additional detail about the plan and responded to residents’ concerns about potential implications.

Falso said that he felt that the use of the space for the 50-unit condo structure was a “gross misuse” of the space, and personally lobbied for the townhomes, which he estimated will be in the $500,000 to $600,000 price range.

Residents expressed concern over the height of the proposed four-story townhomes.

Falso said that three story townhomes are an “obsolete architectural design,” and to attract their target demographic – which he characterized as Main Line property owners downsizing their current residences – the additional floor was necessary. He emphasized that he is not interested in student renters.

Allaying fears that the structures would loom large over Terrace St., he suggested that the 30-foot setback of the townhomes will allow for human-size scaling for the houses.

While the plan remains in its initial stages, Falso indicated that this project is tenable.

“I wouldn’t invest $7 million if I didn’t think it was workable,” he said.

An initial vote, disavowing the plans, was not supported by WNCA. In a second vote, WNCA voted to express “interest” in the plan, pending further information from the developers and communication with the Zoning Board. 

Bantly said he will contact representatives from the Philadelphia City Planning Commission for their feedback.

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