92-unit complex proposed for 43rd and Baltimore, across from Clark Park

March 21, 2013


A New York-based property developer is hoping to build a 92-unit residential building on the large vacant lot at the corner of 43rd Street and Baltimore Avenue (pictured), across from Clark Park.

The property owner, Clarkmore LP, is associated with Thylan Associates Inc., whose properties include the University of Pennsylvania-run independent housing complex for the elderly, LIFE UPenn, at 4508 Chestnut St., the Bailey Building at 1218 Chestnut St. and the Biddle Building at 1217 Sansom St. The company also owns upscale condos at 1111 Locust St. and the Heid Building, 325 N. 13th St., which houses lofts.

The conditional zoning permit, granted on March 11, confirms that the developer meets some basic requirements for construction, but does not give a green light for construction.

A 17,600 square-foot structure and the plot, which is a little over an acre, was purchased by Thylan in 2008 for $3.5 million. The building was demolished soon after. The building had most recently housed a women’s shelter. In the past it had served as a nursing home and before that a private boarding school.

The proposed project will also include 36 “bicycle spaces” and 6 parking spaces.

Anyone who opposes the permit for the project can file an appeal to the Zoning Board of Adjustment. For instruction, call them at 215-686-2429.


90 Comments For This Post

  1. Mike Lynch Says:

    Only 6 parking spaces for 92 apartments?

  2. rgl Says:

    i think they are underestimating how many penn kids got to take their cars to college…

  3. stephanie Says:

    So long, street parking! Fight to the death!

  4. LW Says:

    That’s nuts. And much of the parking that is there will disappear on Farmer’s Market days.

  5. PFB Says:

    Increasing the amount of parking available increases the headaches associated with having a car in the city. It’s a phenomenon known as “induced demand.”

    The bigger issue is the sheer number of units in a less densely built-up area like West Philly. And how high will this structure be? And to whom will it cater? Undergrads? Grad students and young professionals? Will units be allotted to lower income families?

  6. Julia Says:

    I would really love to know if it’s pet friendly

  7. George Says:

    And it will be built as cheaply and crudely as humanly possible I’m sure. What a farce. I wonder who they know in the zoning dept?

  8. Gubby Says:

    as someone who’s been installing in a lot of new development in center and west philly, this. the housing may look nice new and clean but they’re made of paper and string

  9. Rachel Says:

    I don’t know, it could be good for the neighborhood; we’ll have to see more details. I live right next door, and I think it’s great that they aren’t planning to try to put in aboveground parking with ugly dangerous curbcuts. The neighborhood needs to push them to make it attractive and as PFB suggests to try to get them to cater to a mix of residents. West Philly could use a little more density if it’d done in the right way. The corner of 43rd and Baltimore is pretty good already, but a nice structure anchoring the southeast could make a positive difference.

  10. LW Says:

    “Increasing the amount of parking available increases the headaches associated with having a car in the city.”

    I was thinking more of reducing the number of units they are going to cram in. But yes, more details are needed.

  11. Timothy Says:

    I’ve been wondering what would would be done with this space. I had been hoping for a dog run for American Staffordshire Terriers, maybe with a vegan food cart offering exclusively local produce, both for the terriers and their owners.

  12. Timothy Says:

    Excuse me. I should have said “for the terriers and their companions.”

  13. Andy Says:

    This is flatly an awful idea. Clark Park is the most important public space west of the river. Yes, even more important then Fairmount park considering that it was around this park that the transformed University City has been built, and planning a huge permanent apartment complex right on top of it puts it needlessly at risk. There is no indication that the area needs more apartments, but clearly the local school is already overcrowded. The idea that the area needs to be more dense is mindless and ludicrous. That space was used as a community garden before, and should be again. Everyone who loves living around here should fight this with everything they have.

  14. Rich Says:

    Andy’s right. Having apartments or condos around a huge public space will be a disaster for Clark Park. Look how similar development has ruined Rittenhouse Square!

  15. Leaving West Philly Says:

    Ha ha @Rich. Clark Park the new Rittenhouse Square! It’s funny — and sad — because it’s true.

  16. Paul Says:

    I hope they include ground floor commercial. This would be a missed opportunity on a street such as Baltimore Ave not to have more ground floor commercial spaces.

  17. Becky Says:

    92 more units in the catchment area.

  18. Anonymous Says:

    Somehow I doubt community gardeners would be able to pay the $12K/year in property taxes much less the sales price to buy the lot. Looking forward to all the jobs and taxes this project will generate for the city and school district.

  19. reddog Says:

    Does anyone know if this project is being built “as right”, with no changes needed in zoning? Was this lot always one property, or was it divided up into different addresses? After being vacant for “X” number of years the zoning is suppose to drop to the neighborhood standard, which generally doesn’t include 92 units! I’m also surprised there’s no drawing of this project. This is starting to have the stink of Penn around it; Penn who never wants to get their own hands dirty with having to deal directly with the neighborhood.
    Since its pretty clear that something is going to built there, I’d rather have condos then apartments. I think that might insure a better built and better run building.

  20. Andy Says:

    I don’t think commercial space is much of a good idea either. The Baltimore Ave corridor already features many available store fronts, including some on that block. In fact to me the only thing worse then a large apartment complex would be for a big box store to go into that space or a casino.

    Anybody who is with me on fighting this should email me at Thanks.

  21. Andy Says:

    12k a year in taxes doesn’t even come close to covering what the impact this will have. And high density apartments don’t generate very many long term jobs. Neither of these arguments seem worth risking our most important public space.

    I agree with reddog. Condos wouldn’t be great either, but at least they would be nicer and more long term and would mean people getting a great location in the community would at least have to buy into it to get that location.

  22. Anonymous Says:

    Andy, you realize this property is privately owned and not part of Clark Park, right?

  23. Dave P. Says:

    Any development on that site needs to include first floor retail or have some sort of multi-use built on it.

  24. Hey nonny nonny Says:

    It seems a little far for Penn undergrads (who also have closer-to-campus options such as the Radian, etc.). Perhaps they are hoping to offer housing to USP students?

    How tall does the building need to be to get to 92 units? Seems to me it would have to be pretty tall to accommodate that many.

  25. Gabriel Gottlieb Says:

    I think they should definitely include a retail space or two, or maybe more. That would be so perfect with the Green Line Cafe there. If there was more retail, then there would be less need for cars and parking.

    The number of units is large, but demand is so strong and this is an unusually large site for the neighborhood. After all, it’s not the 1890s anymore, or the 1950s either. Demand in this neighborhood is like the 1920s, when they built a lot of apartment buildings in the neighborhood,and they should take advantage of this rare opportunity to develop a big building on an acre-sized lot.

    Coincidentally, I just posted an article about a 31-unit apartment building, about to be built up the street from this site, at 43rd and Sansom.

  26. Brandon Says:

    Andy, you are completely misinformed. The $12k a year is the tax bill as a vacant lot. If it is developed into 92 units the tax built will go up astronomically, and yes high density apartments will generate long-term jobs because they will be inhabited by young professionals (who need jobs) and/or students who both have money to spend in the local economy.

    We live in one of the densest cities in America people. You knew that when you moved here. This lot is not far from Center City and has great public transportation access. This is a HUGE positive for the neighborhood.

  27. Daniel Powell Says:

    Andy, I totally agree, flatly an awful idea, 92 units, how is this possible? …..gee, lets see here, either this development is going to be a low high rise, perfect shadow caster on the green line, and/or ocean liner size compartments. Great – 92 – nesting studios here we come.

  28. Andy Says:

    More retailers definitely means more cars, and I have no idea how you could conclude otherwise.

    Comparing this to the other construction at 43rd and Samson, which actually strikes me as fine, this building will be 3 times the size of the one at 43rd and Samson, but yet be on about the same size of plot, and still have less then half of the parking!!! This is a terrible plan!!

    And why are people so enthused about more retail? I suppose that wouldn’t be much worse, but again, there is already other empty storefronts on baltimore ave.

  29. Andy Says:

    “yes high density apartments will generate long-term jobs because they will be inhabited by young professionals (who need jobs) and/or students who both have money to spend in the local economy”

    @Brandon that doesn’t make any sense. Just because people are living there doesn’t mean that jobs will suddenly appear. And why are these theoretical inhabitants young professionals? Young families and students are the majority of people living in University City.

    I dam well know where I live and that is why this makes me angry. There is no shortage of inexpensive apartments in this city already, and so I see no need to put one right next to one of our nicest parks! This developer is capitalizing on the people who have lived here for years (like myself) and have helped to make this a nice neighborhood. I see a NYC developer plopping done a giant apt complex in a nice school district with cheap taxes and making a fortune off of our patience and diligence.


  30. reddog Says:

    Andy, and others——
    The owner spent multi millions on this site, for whatever reasons, that to us seem truely crazy; an out of the world amount. But thats already happened.

    By “right” he/she can build ???? based on the existing zoning.

    If the zoning has to be changed (hope, hope) then the public can be heard and a fight can take place, much like what we are trying to do against Penn re: 40th and Pine.

    But it looks like something is going to happen here, somebody wants to build on this property. The past isn’t going to come back, unfortunately.

    So, with those realities and uncertainties, what would you and others like to see built at 43rd. and Baltimore? I’m really interested in hearing what people think.

    I’d like to see modern victorian twins, but the land cost probably rules that out. So my next choice would be condos. And I personally would trade, as in allowing extra height and density for a better design, and better construction, one that fits in with the surroundings. We shouldn’t have to make trades to get quality, but thats the world we live in.

    Retail, for me I’d say no, keep the retail where it already is on the street. Keep the first floor for storage, meeting rooms, and common space. The site slopes down hill east to west, so that will make it interesting to see what the architect and developer decide to propose.

    But if they already have a building permit, then other then going to court to fight over the zoning that the permit was based on, all this talk is over nothing. The decisions have already been made. And the neighboerhood takes it up the rear. We end up arguing over the table scraps, 10 parking spots not 6. Big deal.

  31. Brandon Says:


    Young professionals are attracted to the neighborhood because the jobs are already here, in eds and meds, and ever expanding. Their presence will create jobs because they will spend their money in the neighborhood.

    I know that young professionals are attracted to the neighborhood because I am one and so are my friends, and guess what? We all live here. I have other friends who live in other parts of the city or on the main line because they want modern amenities. They hang out in University City and spend their free time here, and would live here if the rental housing stock was nicer. The Victorians in West Philly are beautiful but some of them are in bad shape and renters want nicer space. I currently live in a crappy apartment but I’ll be looking to move to something nicer when my lease is up. Hopefully I can find something in West Philly, it’s hard.

    And why is bad to have an apartment complex near one of our nicest parks? More people using the park will only add to its vibrancy. It also means more people to potentially donate money to its care and maintenance. It means more people to shop on Baltimore Avenue and at the farmer’s market. Should only you get to enjoy those amenities?

  32. Andy Says:


    It says in the article that the permit is preliminary and they are not cleared for construction and the decision can be appealed. Follow the link and click the form and you will see that what I object to is clearly some of the criteria that can be objected to. Namely that it will increase congestion, both from traffic and parking. It will potentially change the light given to a public park, it will place additional stress on a neighborhood school that is already turning away people.

    I would also like to point out that under the new AVI even a vacant lot that costs 3.5 million should have a tax assessment of 47k, or about 4 times the current assessment. This lot is not paying their fair share, even before development begins.

    I think condos are a better option, although still not wonderful. I also think that the western half of the lot should be a public space, and that instead of 90 units, 30 units and 15 parking spaces makes more sense, in order to prevent serious downgrade of the park.

    Brandon, your logic is completely backwards, both on jobs and encouraging people to live in the city. There is plenty of places for young professionals to live already, and hurting the park will not get any more of them to come to the city, even if they can basically live right in the park. There is nothing indicating that this developer wants to bring nice accommodations to the area, only high density ones with no additional services added. This proposal is basically an entire city block worth of housing, but practically no parking, no extra green space, no extra school facilities, and as I mentioned before is already paying a fraction of the taxes they should be. This proposal does not add to the park, it diminishes it and enriches a developer from another city. No deal.

  33. Andy Says:

    Let me clarify why your logic is flawed Brandon.

    You seem to be asserting that the building will bring jobs because it will bring young professionals who will attract other investment. The problem is that this building itself does not attract the young professionals. Only if it is executed correctly will it do that, and I would strenuously point out that the current description does not in any way match the attributes you are ascribing to it. In other words, you are idealizing it.

    If poorly executed and a shabby large apartment is put into such a prime location it will do horrible harm to the neighborhood and the park, and frankly all I can tell from this description is that it is large and dense and will not have enough parking for young professionals. I frankly see them being driven away by it.

  34. Frank Rizzo Says:

    Definitely not “as of right” if they had to go before the zoning board. I’d start asking why the neighborhood RCO didn’t require these jokers to pamphlet the RCO meetings, so neighbors could actually have input, rather than getting shafted by the ZBA.

  35. 45k Says:

    If the project is designed well, it would be good for the park, the neighborhood and the city.

    And how parochial can you be- to oppose something because the developer is from NY? Like that is a blackmark. God forbid anyone build something that might fit into those architectural wastelands of Brooklyn & Manhattan!

    The Nimby’s and anti-development reactionaries in my old neighborhood protested an older version of the Naval Home plan- vocal people inexplicably hated the idea of three 14 story towers. So instead the neighborhood ended up with the packed in low-density suburban style townhouses that killed a beautiful space.

    The lessen is be careful what you wish for. A quality project with higher density is better than a low quality project with lower density. Or a vacant fenced lot.

    I wouldn’t rule out opposing this, but it really depends on the details and commitments the developer can make to ensure the project is well designed. Maybe they can provide some dedicated funding to Clark Park?

  36. Andy Says:

    On what are you basing your idealization of this project on 45k? You say things like “if it is well designed” or “maybe they can provide funding” but there are certainly no details that convey any of that.

    All we know is that it is a ton of units with basically zilch for parking. Hell only a third of the units will even have spots for bikes. How does that sound well designed or high quality?

    This project is planned near three of the most trafficked locations in the community: the farmers market, the green line cafe and the best house. But yet, has the developer done any outreach?, or even posted information on the lot about what is planned? If they know the number of units, then there is already a design for this, but there is no drawings of it posted. West Philly local has been keeping an eye on this and that is the only reason we even know about it.

    This smells bad. I think a good project can help the community, but I see no indication this is a good project. I don’t trust offhand a NYC developer because I know what the average Manhattanite thinks of Philly. I don’t trust someone who lives 2 hours away who is looking to make money off of an valuable public resource in my community, and anyone who does is a fool.

  37. Karen Allen Says:

    I live in Cedar Park, so I won’t be directly affected by this project. But while riding past the lot on the 34, I always suspected that the land was being consolidated for a big project like what’s being proposed.

    You’ll recall that there was a community garden on the corner, and the large house that was used as the women’s shelter was next to the garden. You may also recall that the house was demolished during the fight against the original location of the “Campus Inn” (remember the 11 story monstrosity that was going to be attached to the 3 story former nursing home at 40th and Pine?)

    A key question is whether the project requires a zoning variance, becasue that is where the community has a voice. Having worked with the Woodland Terrace neighbors in the fight against the Campus Inn, I have seen so-called “community representatives” roll over for developers. So—what is the position of the local “RCO” ?

  38. 45king Says:

    I am withholding judgement. But people investing in marquee projects in the neighborhood is generally a good hing. This isn’t a drive through Wendy’s that is proposed.

    i have a bias against the low rise condos or townhouses which is by right building. Low rise can be MUCH worse. The district health center is no gem to say the least. That group of houses on he sw corner of the park is hideous, no redeeming quality, especially the low quality newly built bilevls that serve as student slum housing. It is very possible, if we kill a good project, we get something terrible like that instead. Likewise, things like more parking have tradeoffs that may not be attractive. Six spots sounds like too little, but one for each apt, or even every other apt, is definitely too many.

    No one, especially not the city, is not going to buy this land for $3.5 mm to make it a garden or other public use, not that a garden is even a good use for a prime corner on a transit line. So until we repeal the 5th amendment, there is that limitation. What else do you want on that corner?

    By all means we should make sure the development is high quality, not pollution. And if not, then oppose it with all our efforts.

  39. Pat Says:

    I am the director of the health center. It may not look like a gem but it actually is one. Last year we provided excellent primary and urgent care for thousands of Philadelphia residents, about half of them without medical insurance. As far as the exterior of the building, we are working to try to get an update. I’d be happy to meet with you anytime. Just stop by…Pat

  40. 45king Says:

    I do see the suspicion about poor design with only 30 bike spots & not putting out the design & specs.

    Not sure how many people living there would need their own car.

    The community should restrict residents of this building from getting street parking permits. They did that for st Matt’s in grad hospital. I don’t see the threat to the market other than parking, but that could be dealt with in other manners.

  41. 45king Says:

    I do see andys suspicion about poor design with only 30 bike spots & not putting out the design & specs.

    Not sure how many people living there would need their own car.

    The community should restrict residents of this building from getting street parking permits. They did that for st Matt’s in grad hospital. I don’t see the threat to the market other than parking, but that could be dealt with in other manners.

  42. mary Says:

    I believe that the conditional construction permit this project has received is far from a green light, or even a sign of official approval, for this project. It’s probably the minimum OK that’s necessary to start the process for the developers. The numbers that are being thrown around are just the opening bids in what I think we can anticipate will be a long, drawn-out process of negotiation with the community.

    Clearly, the building as proposed would require a number of zoning variances. It is my understanding, for instance, that the height limit for RM-1 zoning, which governs this plot, is 38 feet. And I believe that the minimum open space required for this type of construction is 20%. The lot itself is 46,401 sq.ft., according to BRT records. Setback requirements, space for parking and bike racks might also reduce the allowable footprint for the building. Without knowing the size of the units intended for the building, and being ignorant of the standard for calculating the square footage usually devoted to halls, stairs, mechanicals, common areas, etc., I can’t really estimate how many stories this building would require to contain 92 units. But I have a hard time imagining it coming in at four stories or less. Perhaps someone who does have this expertise could enlighten us?

    I notice there is nothing on the Spruce Hill Community Association website about this proposal. Since they are undoubtedly the most important community group with regard to this reasonably urgent issue, it would be helpful if the zoning committee posted a summary of the proposal and of the zoning issues on-line. This would certainly reduce the confusion that can come from dealing with rumors, not facts, and ease the frustration of the rest of us who do not share their skills in navigating the various city websites!

    Finally, I think it is important to reject any attempts to depict neighbors’ concerns as some sort of NIMBY kneejerk reaction, Marxist hostility to private property, or provincial attitude towards New Yorkers! No – I’d argue that the people who live and make their homes in this community are entitled to have a voice in, even to determine, the ways in which it grows and changes.

  43. Andy Says:

    Thank you Mary, both for shedding some light and backing me up.

    I was talking to earlier at the Market to Tony West of the FoCP and he said some of the same things, but noted that last years zoning reforms have also made everything a new ballgame. I am going to personally be pursuing this and definitely getting involved with SHCA.

    I definitely beg to differ with you 45king. A community garden would be perfect in that location. It already was one for starters, but it is a great central meeting location of the neighborhood, and would be nice if some of our food actually came from right down the street. Also, all such green spaces in urban neighborhoods are precious resources. University City is lucky to have some real good ones, but any neighborhood that lets them disappear without serious consideration risks the health of the community. You don’t have to go too far down woodland or baltimore to feel the difference the lack of trees and green makes.

    A public garden would definitely strengthen the community, although I can understand that such an expensive peace of real estate is unlikely to be purchased for such usage. Maybe it is more likely that if we work with the developer that a portion of the lot might be used for that purpose? It’s a thought.

  44. Amara Says:

    PlanPhilly has a “License to Inspect” application that enables neighbors to subscribe to automatic email updates for permits, violations and zoning activity in area:

  45. Brandon Says:


    Under AVI vacant land is undervalued, so $12,000 is a pretty good estimate. Also, you keep talking about the lot as a public good, but it is privately owned. I’m as liberal as it comes, but under no circumstances should the owner of this lot be compelled to give it up to be developed into a park or community garden. They bought it with the expectation that they would profit. I’m sure you know that so it’s silly that I even have to mention it, but you seem to be ignoring logic.

    Also, you keep saying we shouldn’t except development that would diminish Clark Park. You are assuming everyone thinks that this would be bad for Clark Park. I see more residents added to an area that will make it more vibrant and fun. It will spur demand for more retail and restaurants and it will add to the tax base.

    High density development yields more tax revenue per acre, you keep saying things that make me believe that you don’t know this. We will not see tons of families moving into these units. It will be young people, most of which won’t have kids. Yet, the tax revenue will be huge. This will not burden the local school, it will do just the OPPOSITE! It will provide more revenue to the school district while adding only a few new children at most.

  46. Happy Curmudgeon Says:

    Sounds good to me. 92 more families in the catchment. Hopefully they will put a Starbucks and a Dunkin Donuts in there too so that the Green Line will get shut down along with a Papa Johns pizza to close out the rest of the local business. I cannot think of anything better than getting rid of all the hippies and freaks. Gettine more UPenn students in Clark Park means that they will triple the police presence too. Sarcasm over, now lets be serious.

    Terrible idea but you have all those freedom loving government nuthuggers who will get on this page and tell you to back off, it is their right to do whatever they want with this land. Right Sean? If you think this is a bad idea, suck it up. You cannot stop the zoning board. Look at the tremendous success of Subway and be shamed every one of you. When you cannot get a seat or handle the lines at the Green Line remember-this is progress pure and simple. Why should they have to pay taxes? Parking spots? Who needs them. Schools? They closed them so stop having children.

  47. GoldenMonkey Says:

    Edgy, controversial.

  48. Fred Says:

    Edgy, controversial…..also possibly mentally ill and in dire need of therapy. Can anyone help here?

  49. Andy Says:

    Brandon, seems to me that AVI is meant to simplfy the process and make it clean and clear. The land was purchased for 3.5 million, which at 1.32% is 46200. But they get a good deal because they turned it into a vacant lot?!?! Bullshit.

    High density for the sake of high density doesn’t do anything you are talking about. It only means less expensive, because people don’t pay more for less space. People also don’t pay more for things like street parking or having lots and lots of neighbors or having to fight for a place to lock up a bike. That should be patently apparent.

    Good development on a prime location could help the neighborhood, but your defense of why this is good development is fantasy, and I think the neighborhood would be served by looking at this quite closely and without wishful thinking. The density should be in keeping with what is already in place, and I don’t think it’s too much to ask to have a portion of the lot dedicated to extending Clark Park since an acre of open space is going to disappear, and I for one would love a community garden there again.

    Happy Curmudgeon makes an excellent point that I was thinking about too. Retailers who get contacted into inexpensive housing are very likely to be big fast food chains to compete with the great locally owned restaurants and businesses we already have. No thank you.

  50. Sean Says:

    Holy non sequitur, curmudgeon.

    Scale, number of units, parking, retail on the ground floor – these are all 100%, without a doubt, legitimate zoning issues – exactly what the zoning process is designed to address. They all directly relate to legitimate issues about the potential impacts of a proposed development. Its exactly the type of stuff our zoning laws (passed by the people we elect) are designed to address.

    Whether this brand of sandwich that some people arbitrarily identify with is OK but this other brand of sandwich proposed to be made in the exact same location isn’t was never a legitimate zoning issue, on the other hand. It was abuse of the community’s power to question whether a use is appropriate because arbitrary consumer brand identification aside, there was never a legitimate question whether making sandiwches at all at that location was an appropriate use. It was, just some people decided that they should be able to tell others that only their type of brand preference was OK – which in its own way is right up their with people who want to tell others that only their particular religion or sexual preference is OK.

    People questioning whether proposed building’s scale is appropriate, its affect on parking and neighborhood density – those are all legitimate questions about whether this proposed use is right or not.

    They are all legitimate questions immediate neighbors and the RCO, Spruce Hill Community Association, should put to developers.

    I’m 150% down with neighbors asking legitimate zoning questions about legitimate zoing issues. Bending zoning laws to say arbitrarily only people who conform to one’s own religion/sexual preference/ideology/consumer brand affiliation should have rights, not so much.

  51. Guest Worker Says:

    What the hell are you people smoking? A developer who spent millions of dollars on prime real estate is just supposed to donate it to the community so they could inject a community garden in an area with some of the largest backyards in the city? If you want that, YOU BUY IT!

    Where the hell do you get this sense of entitlement? What gives you the right to tell a property owner what he/she should do with his/her property?
    This is just like when you morons came out flagellating yourselves over the possibility of Subway coming to your precious neighborhood. You couldn’t accept that the market dictated the usage of the space– that organic sustainable puppy underwear stores weren’t viable businesses– no, it was about the evil evil corporation snaking its way into your precious enclave. They might use a delivery truck once in awhile!! oh no!! Meanwhile, you oil-heat using morons block up perfectly good streets with oil tanker trucks on a daily basis, sometimes blocking the 34 trolley.

    FWIW, I agree that the development should have more parking– this rally against 1:1 parking will hurt us in the long run when environmental consciousness isn’t stylish anymore.

  52. Brandon Says:


    Some of your comments are laughable. Yes, AVI is supposed to make things simpler. But the fact of the matter is that assessments have come out and vacant land has been underassessed. This lot has been assessed at $957,000, not $3.5 million. That is a fact, not an opinion. Is it a good thing that they have provided an incentive to keep land vacant? Hell no. But it is what it is.

    You’re right, high density for the sake of high density is not necessarily good. I eagerly await plans and renderings before judging the value of this project. But there is nothing inherently bad about 92 units at 43rd and Baltimore, and if done right it could be a HUGE boon to the neighborhood.

    It is definitely too much to ask to have a portion donated to Clark Park. There is more open space in our neighborhood than most places in the city, and lots of people have back yards and service alleys. We are not in dire need of green space and I would rather see quality development with retail on the ground floor.

    Your Chicken Little attitude would be funny if it wasn’t so destructive for our neighborhood. I know I will not change your mind on this, but I’m hopeful that the majority of the people in our neighborhood don’t think the way you do.

  53. GoldenMonkey Says:

    Finally some voices of reason.

  54. mary Says:

    Brandon where did you get the $957,000 figure?

    According to the BRT records, 4224 Baltimore Ave. is currently assessed taxes on its land (46,401 sq.ft.) alone, paying $3,705.16 on an assessed value of $37,000. (For the sake of comparison, that property is more than 12x the size of my 3680 sq.ft. homestead, and our land is currently assessed at $10,035. Our 2013 total tax bill is $4,902, about $1,000 of it paid on the land.)

    The BRT records show a 2014 Market Value for 4224 of $280,300 – based on land alone, with a total assessment of $280,000, not $957,000. The 2014 taxes for our twin will be based on a new market value of $542,600 and will be substantially higher than those paid on this large, prime piece of real estate.

    I would really love to hear the rationale for valuing a property that was purchased for $3.5 million at $280,000! If you consult the OPA’s little brochure on how commercial and multi-family properties are valued, you will find a few sentences of incoherent whim-wham!

    I anticipate that the city is going to have a real fight on its hands in implementing the AVI, when questionable valuations like this one are found repeated all over the city. The AVI is great in theory, but unfortunately, in Philadelphia, the reality is the politically-connected still get over on the rest of us. Remember, if Clarkmore, LLP pays less than it should on its properties, we all end up paying more – this is indeed a zero-sum game. And the Clarkmore people play hardball – one of them admitted in federal court to bribing a BRT worker to lower the assessments on a number of their properties.

  55. garden plot Says:

    On the other hand, if they build it their assessment will go up dramatically and the tax burden on the rest of us goes down and if they city buys it from the developer for $3.5 million from the developer and turns it into a community garden, then all of our property taxes will have to go up to make up the difference.

    Mandatory community gardens for forced gentrification now!

  56. Andy Says:

    It is absurd and not helpful to imply that a community garden will force up people’s taxes because it will not. It might however slightly improve property values, whereas a large rental building likely to depreciate property values and potentially harm the park.

    Thanks again Mary for being a true voice of reason here.

  57. garden plot Says:

    Dude, when a piece of land that valuable is taken of the tax rolls, the money has to be made up from somewhere else. Usually by an increase on the rest of us. Vacant land shifts the burden on to the rest of us. Dense development lowers the share of the burden the rest of us have to carry.

    More people/property paying in = less burden for each person.
    Less people/property paying in = more of a burden for those that do end up paying.

  58. reddog Says:

    4224 Baltimore—if this is the address of the twin that was torn down, does it also include the lot that runs to 43rd st?

    How can the total assessment [$280,000] be less then the land alone [$280,300]?

    Guest worker—if the plans included some garden plots maybe you could grow something you could smoke! But it might have to be organic. Do you believe in zoning? If not how would you like a gas station opening next to your house?

    This discussion is great considering how little facts are actually known about whats proposed for this site. I look forward to the practical and philosophical talks and grandstanding that will take place in the future if/when the plans come out.

  59. Andy Says:

    garden plot and all those not really good at math please follow this closely…

    Taking 12 thousand off the city roll of roughly 400 million in property tax revenue means you need to increase the rate by…no kidding here… 0.000000402 to make up for the difference. In order for that to increase your tax bill by 1 single penny you have to already be paying over 25000 in annual taxes, or have a property value (under AVI) of almost 2 million dollars. A community garden is NOT going to increase your taxes.

    Think this through and do the math. The city gains a basically negligible amount of taxes from the plot currently, but currently rakes in millions due to the high value of the properties around Clark Park. If the building causes a downturn in the value of those properties, the city will lose tens of times the amount of money it would make from a single high density building.

    Keeping the neighborhood strong completely trumps jamming more cheap apartments into a single plot. Do the math.

  60. Andy Says:

    I’m done with this. Going to spend my energy finding out more about it and working to inform the community about what is going on rather then arguing with people here. My address is already posted here for those who would like to know more or work with me.

  61. garden plot Says:

    But say if a decently designed, appropriately sized apartment building gets built, it both contributes much more to the surrounding neighborhood’s value than a community garden available to the use of a lucky few and the assessment on the property (and taxes collected) as opposed to what it currently is assessed at increase dramatically, so your pennies starts to become real dollars. The developer paid $3 million on the assumption that built out the property could be worth 3 or 4 times that, at least.

    Empty underutilized land available for at tax payer expense to the small number of people who would have access to a garden plot, especially along a major transit corridor is both elitist and anti-environmental because its misusing limited resources to benefit a small number of people.

    Housing people near a major transit hub in the middle of a city, what a shocking idea.

  62. garden plot Says:

    But say if a decently designed, appropriately sized apartment building gets built, it both contributes much more to the surrounding neighborhood’s value than a community garden available to the use of a lucky few and the assessment on the property (and taxes collected) as opposed to what it currently is assessed at increase dramatically, so your pennies starts to become real dollars. The developer paid $3 million on the assumption that built out the property could be worth 3 or 4 times that, at least.

    Empty underutilized land made available at tax payer expense to the small number of people who would have access to a garden plot, especially along a major transit corridor is both elitist and anti-environmental because its misusing limited resources to benefit a small number of people.

    Housing people near a major transit hub in the middle of a city, what a shocking idea.

  63. mary Says:

    Sure, garden plot, no argument that land with dwellings provides more tax income than vacant land. Just need to acknowledge that a certain category of developer/coomercial property owner does not pay its fair share of the tax burden. This particular plot is a striking example of how skilled some of these folks are at avoiding taxes. Did you know that the BRT collected $0 from the owners in the first year, having neglected to change the status of the property from totally exempt to taxable when it changed hands?

    There’s a further irony in your hypothetical about the city purchasing the lot from the developer for 3.5 million. As a matter of the fact the city, that is, we the tax payers, did own this plot of land. The Redevelopment Authority, under some special program, transferred the property to the organization, Women Against Abuse, who provide shelter for abused women and their children. Whether WAA had a legal right to then sell the property, or was under an obligation to return it to the city if it no longer wanted it, is open to debate. So, you see, arguments about the sanctity of property rights start to lose their force when you consider how slippery some of the deals involving city-owned property can be.

    Andy, I also believe that it’s fruitless to carry on too extended a discussion among ourselves, particularly with so little info about the proposal to go on. The two principals in any potential zoning battle are the owners and the SHCA, our community representative. I certainly would like to hear from them – I can’t believe they are unaware of this very large and unusual project, and under the new planning rules, they have an obligation to keep us informed.

  64. reddog Says:

    andy, when and if you find something more out about this I hope you pass the info along. This proposal [of sorts!] has all sorts of comments, which if nothing else shows interest and concern.
    The 43rd and Sansom project which actually has drawings seems to have no comments, eventho I think its a bad design.

  65. Adam Says:

    I think we can come to a compromise between the people that think it should be a community garden and the people that acknowledge it is privately owned.

    Let’s encourage them to sell the lot to private agriculture. I think we should have Monsanto come in use the lot for testing new strains produce.

    To make sure it directly benefits the community, we can work an agreement where they have to sell 50% of their experimental produce to the local Subway.

  66. Mike Lynch Says:

    The added competition for access to the catchment school will likely cause property values to drop.

  67. Adam Says:

    Mike, that is why they need to implement Thunderdome-style admission processes to Penn Alexander. That way only the strong will move into the neighborhood.

  68. Anonymous Says:

    OMG mary, SHCA has an email list and has been distributing information about this development. I suppose you cannot be bothered to sign up and require the information be delivered personally to your front door?

  69. Brandon Says:


    My info on the valuation came from the Axis Philly website:


    The idea that an apartment complex at this location would bring property values down is disingenuous and you know it. University City has seen tons of new development, even during a recession, and property values have continued to rise. There is a lot of pent up demand for housing in this part of the city.

  70. Adam Says:

    Brandon, I have noticed a lot of discrepancies between Axis’s numbers and what is reported on the OPA site (not saying the OPA site isn’t the wrong one).

  71. Happy Curmudgeon Says:

    I would assume property values near a 92 unit building would be lower than similar homes NOT near a 92 unit building. When I bought my home, I saw a much nicer and cheaper home on a block with an apartment building and passed it over. The realtor mentioned that many people had the same response.

    Dropped value is not the same as slow sale but in the end, it kind of is.

    I’m just glad I don’t live near there and I tell you that the Green Line better start making plans for more traffic because they can barely handle the weekend rush as it is. Maybe they’ll just up-n-move to the retail space at 43rd and Sansom.

  72. Adam Says:

    “I would assume property values near a 92 unit building would be lower than similar homes NOT near a 92 unit building.”

    False comparison unless that second home was next to a block-sized vacant lot. Property values get decreased by that as well.

    “I’m just glad I don’t live near there and I tell you that the Green Line better start making plans for more traffic because they can barely handle the weekend rush as it is.”

    Or maybe more businesses will open as well. I am not sure why people think a business being at capacity is a bad thing.

  73. Brandon Says:

    It’s ridiculous to think that any business owner wouldn’t welcome new customers to the neighborhood.

    Also, a 92-unit apartment building would not bring down the value in an URBAN neighborhood. Maybe in a suburban neighborhood. The high rises on Rittenhouse certainly aren’t bringing down the values of surrounding properties. Vacant lots are much more troublesome. It’s likely that these units will be more expensive than most of the rental stock that can currently be found in the neighborhood anyway.

    Adam, thanks for the info about Axis. I wasn’t aware.

  74. mary Says:

    Brandon and Adam, the numbers on the PhillyAxis site for 4224-26 Baltimore are obviously in error. The source for the AVI assessments on their map can only be OPA. OPA is the city agency that is generating these values – it makes no sense to suggest their values on the BRT records are incorrect and a private web site’s are right! Nevertheless, it’s a very good site, thank you for recommending it. Have you read all of their articles on the extraordinary undervaluing of Philly’s vacant land? 4224-26 is just one of many examples.

    As far as the issue of this project’s effect on property values and tax income – well, it seems obvious to me that a right-sized, well-designed building, respectful of its neighbors, will help to maintain or even increase property values, while an out-of-scale, poorly-designed one will lower them. Rental housing instead of residences is not an encouraging sign, however. So far, the specifics of the project are not available either on the SHCA website, its mail archives, or on the city’s L&I site. Perhaps the developers will surprise us!

  75. Adam Says:

    Mary, yes it can be wrong if they did something wrong importing the data from the City. Like I said, I have seen instances where the Axis numbers don’t equal the OPA numbers. In those instances I would assume you should go by the OPA website.

  76. Monica Says:

    Those wishing to receive information from the Spruce Hill Community Association (SHCA) regarding this and other important issues in our neighborhood are encouraged to sign up for the SHCA list-serve:

    You can also learn more about SHCA activities, and/or become a member, on the website. New association members are always very welcome! Membership is open to all individuals, business or professional offices, and institutions with an interest in Spruce Hill.

  77. Amara Says:

    It seems neighbors are unfamiliar with the processes under the new zoning code. Pages 22-23 and 28-29 outline the new procedures and explain how the project could be both “by-right” and require Civic Design Review.

  78. Brandon Says:

  79. Paul Says:

    Am I the only one that thinks the conversation around proposed neighborhood changes is frequently far uglier than the changes themselves? If we’re all calling each other idiots in the middle of Clark Park, I don’t much care whether we’re in the shadow of an apartment building or not.

  80. reddog Says:

    I disagree that this conversation has turned ugly. Just the opposite in fact. In the past I know talks about the park have gone up and down, but I think the talk about this “change” has been a good airing of opinions. In light that it looks like this will have to go thru zoning etc. I wish more people would express their thoughts, fears and hopes about that they would like to see built here. In many ways this format is better then a 2 hour meeting called by the gods of Spruce Hill.

  81. agentrem Says:

    Fact Check: The Heid Building, 325 N. 13th St, does not house lofts.

    It’s a vacant shell. It’s been covered in graffiti, had squatters living in it, even a fire. Several owners have been promising all kinds of things there to Callowhill Neighborhood Association. Ask them, drive by, see for yourself. I just moved from that neighborhood, it’s getting taken over by developers with deep pockets [including Blatstein], the neighborhood Association rolls over quickly.

    I’ve heard west philly is stronger than that. I hope so, that’s why we moved here.

  82. H Says:

    Agreed, reddog (ha – that’s almost an anagram). Only one person has resorted to name-calling. I’ve found this to be an interesting discussion. A little heated, but good.

  83. reddog Says:

    agentrem—-whats the deal with 325N. 13th? Where did that come from, maybe I’m missing a post or two.

    I do hope that the neighborhood won’t roll over when dealing with developers,(and Penn!) but don’t get your hopes up. I’m not now nor have I been, impressed with SHCA. Well meaning folk, but sortof inbred. But thats what happens when you have alot of people who like public meetings, but only a few who are willing to get their hands dirty with the petty details of a RCO.

    This would be a great chance for the surrounding area to have a meaningful and ongoing discussion about this possible proposal; it along with Penn’s rape at 40th and Pine, are certainly the largest developments to be considered around here in a very long time. So where is SHCA in this? If they are involved I hope that they realize that its not just their limited membership who is concerned.

    Does anybody know of other on-line discussions about this?

  84. agentrem Says:

    reddog___Read second paragraph of above article noting other properties the owner of this property owns. West Philly Local reported it was a building “which houses lofts”. This is incorrect.

    They way Thylan Associates Inc. treats this property [Heid Building, 325 N. 13th St.] and neighborhood, may be a good indicator of how they will treat the process of developing this lot and the neighborhood at large.

  85. F Says:

    92 Units? Awesome! Why not? One good thing about this project will be the increased foot traffic at the Green Line. I’ve been waiting years for them to speed up the lines. 92 units means more people buying coffee and bagels. If they want to stay in business, they’ll have no choice but to speed it up… right? right?

  86. Happy Curmudgeon Says:

    Wait a minute. Youre telling me that property next door to other single family houses have lower value than houses next door to an apartment building? I call BS on that. Nobody wants to live next to an apartment building. All this jibber jabber about this being Rittenhouse West? I call BS on that as well. This is West Philly for a reason. Its leaner greener and more enjoyable than that chokelist of a city a few blocks east. Adding to a tax base? BS. Public versus private ownership? ever heard of bad investment? Let the community opposition reign. Remember Apple storage? This will go away. bet it.

  87. Brandon Says:

    Happy Curmudgeon,

    There is no reason to believe that an apartment building in this area would lower property values. It is a desirable, high-density, area–whether or not you want to admit it. No it is not as dense as Rittenhouse, and no it never will be. But any opposition to this project based on density alone is just NIMBYism. I visit Clark Park several times a week and I would welcome more users to come experience one of the best parks in the country.

    There is not widespread community opposition to this sort of project, only a vocal minority that is trying to impose its will.

  88. mds chill Says:

    I think there is reason to believe that an undesirable (poorly designed, cheaply built, not integrated into the surrounding block) building would drive down property values, but until we can see some drawings we should hold off on completely condemning the project.

  89. Brandon Says:

    Absolutely. However, a lot of the people commenting here are condemning the building based solely on density. As of now we have no reason to believe that this will turn out to be a poorly designed project. It will have to face architectural design review, so we’ll get something that fits in with the character of the neighborhood.

  90. Joe Says:

    Read all the comments, and agree first floor business is good, perhaps a restaurant facing the park. Hopefully the building will not be a box. It should be something like a “c” shape like Garden Court on Pine side to build community within the building, and the final design, height etc, should take in the final number of feasible units, and then determine needed parking. History fact, don’t forget that SE 43rd and Chester had a four/five story apartment house across from the park that burned down, as it became devalued when front facade was slipping into the bed of buried Mill Creek on 43rd.

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