No undergrads, no pharmacies, more parking: Residents weigh in on 43rd and Baltimore project

May 21, 2013

4224 Baltimore Avenue

The “design” table offers some suggestions during a community meeting on the proposed property at 4224 Baltimore Ave. on Monday.

The roughly 40 residents who sat down Monday evening at the International House (3701 Chestnut St.) to offer their input on the proposed 92-unit residential development project at 43rd and Baltimore made a few things clear: More parking, no pharmacies, absolutely no undergraduates and a design that respects what Clark Park means to West Philly.

Their input was part of the first of three community meetings designed to weave community input into design, retail space and transit choices to be made by the developers of the property at 4224 Baltimore Ave., the long-vacant plot across 43rd Street from Clark Park.

“Working with the community we can aspire for a project that works for the community, for the neighbors, for the business owners,” said Omar Blaik, a 15-year resident and former senior vice president at Penn, whose firm, U3 Ventures, is serving as a development liaison between the community and the property owners. U3’s job is to gather community input over the next couple of months and integrate them into the project’s design.

So far, there is no design. A conditional use permit from the city allows the development of a 92-unit structure, but places few restrictions on the amenities offered or the businesses that could occupy the first floor of the project. No building drawings were offered at the meeting. Those will be available at the next meeting in mid June, when the comments from Monday’s meeting are passed along to architects.

Residents were broken into groups and asked to address the building design, ideas about retail spaces, the type of units that should be offered and parking/transit. Here’s what they had to say:

Design – This group of residents recommended that there be at least 50-60 parking spaces incorporated into the design. The original proposal calls for six. They also advised that the service access for the project in no way interferes with trolley traffic on Baltimore Avenue. So no double parking etc. The height of the building should fit in with other buildings in the vicinity.

Retail – They recommended businesses that fit the current flavor of the neighborhood. The options range from a single 5,000-square-foot business (the space at Mariposa is about 5,500 feet for comparison), or whether it should house several smaller spaces. The Green Line Café at 43rd and Baltimore, for example, is about 1,000 square feet. Milk and Honey Market is about 2,000 square feet. Resident Mel Clampet-Lundquist suggested a design that incorporates a pub/restaurant that looks out over a recreational space that could be used for wiffleball, similar to Rookie’s, a Wisconsin pub/field. “Absolutely no pharmacies,” the group concluded. Another suggestion was a “restaurant that served good booze rather than a pub that served bad food.”

Unit type – This group was asked to consider the preferred market for the complex. There was a clear consensus that it should not include undergraduates. Other possibilities included single families or condos that could be purchased by current neighborhood residents looking to downsize. One issue the group raised was the added pressure that would  be placed on the Penn Alexander School if the project marketed to young families.

Parking/Transit – They recommended a resident-to-parking-space ratio of 2:1 or 3:1. They also recommended that the project should encourage walking, biking, car share and public transit to residents through added car share spaces and maybe a SEPTA kiosk.

Blaik said that these suggestions will be be taken into consideration in the designs that are set to be released at a June meeting. A final meeting will be held in early July.

What can you do?

This process isn’t over. The developers are collecting ideas from residents at a website, They encourage everyone to submit design ideas on the “community” portion of the site, including photos of building designs you like and restaurants you would like to see housed there.

Mike Lyons

  • Meeting 1
  • meeting 2
  • meeting 3
  • meeting4


121 Comments For This Post

  1. 50th St Says:

    This is a serious question, not sarcastic — how could/would they go about excluding undergraduates? By pricing them out? Given that many students at Penn are quite wealthy and are beginning to eye Clark Park as a hot place to live, simply making the units more expensive doesn’t seem like it would accomplish that. But I don’t know if there’s some other way they would exclude that population.

    (disclosure: I wouldn’t care if it were or weren’t full of undergrads as long as the building wasn’t ugly)

  2. shazoooo! Says:

    Would 1 full year lease discourage them?

  3. no Says:


  4. JD Says:

    Expansion: with the number of summer courses, internships, etc. in the area you’re pretty much guaranteed to find a summer subletter if you’re going to be elsewhere.

  5. shazoo00oo! Says:

    I wonder if they would have a no subletting clause in the lease to discourage this?

  6. FrogPenguin Says:

    Many apartments like the Left Bank and Domus do not allow undergraduates to sign leases or become residents without a non-undergrad living with them. Many of the center city apartments also seem to enforce this rule.

    That said, undergrads do secretly live as primary residents in these apartments by having their friends and family sign the leases. Some apartments are vigilant while others knowingly close their eyes.

  7. brendangrad Says:

    Why no pharmacies? I’m just curious what exactly it is about pharamacies that people don’t like. I have no opinion here. And I’m hoping that this board doesn’t turn into another 3 day off topic rant similar to the stupid bike vs car debate that ensued in previous articles on this topic.

  8. Brandon Says:

    I think the rationale is that the neighborhood is already well-served by pharmacies. Personally I’d have no problem with one here. I think the space would be better suited for restaurants though.

  9. CMM Says:

    There are 2 other pharmacies within 3 blocks of this location (43rd and Locust) & (46th and Baltimore). Not only that but pharmacies bring with them lots of traffic that is in and out goodbye! A restaurant/store is a much better idea since people will sit also and enjoy the community; possibly spending money at other local stores or returning to other restaurants in the area thus helping the community as a whole.

  10. nn99 Says:

    The pharmacy on Baltimore & 46th is a sad, sad pharmacy. Having a good pharmacy on Baltimore Av would be pretty handy for a lot of folks.

    That being said, retail uses have a natural tendency to come and go, the most important thing to focus on here is the building itself.

  11. Leeching off the community Says:

    It’s a shame that developers can come in and ruin a neighborhood like this, and that is precisely what they are going to do, what with their malarkey about attracting bicyclists. They aren’t going to waste precious profits on parking. They are going to leave it to those of us who live in the neighborhood (and in their ill-conceived building) to suffer the consequences of their greed. In Seattle, residents get to vote on whether they want such “development” in their neighborhoods. We should have that same right, rather than having our quality of life destroyed by outsiders who put us through some bullshite dog and pony “community voice” routine (PS, the “community” blog to which this article directs us is not even active). After they finish this charade of listening, they will do what they already told us they intend to do, which is throw up a big eyesore of a building with no parking spaces and no real concern for the neighborhood. Don’t buy this cheap patter.

  12. matt Says:

    Also my hunch is that they had a higher estimate of parking spots in their design, but lowballed it in the proposal because they anticipated this response. Now they can come out with their original number as a compromise.

    That said, as far as eyesores go, I’d rather see a building filled with people and brimming with activity than a building that takes up half the space, surrounded by a parking lot. To me, a large parking lot in a vibrant intersection is the real eyesore.

  13. margems Says:

    I agree with Matt about parking. I feel that surface parking lots of size should not be allowed in the city. What a horrible use of land.
    Also, one of the developers is a long-time neighborhood resident.

  14. Molly Says:

    Can’t they build a parking garage above the retail but below the residential. This would allow people to park without taking up precious on street parking.

  15. bigred Says:

    who is that? And is that somehow suppose to make a difference?

  16. bigred Says:

    who is this local, neighbor hood co-developer?

  17. Brandon Says:

    You cannot be serious. People have no right to build buildings on land they own? We should have the right to reject any development simply because we don’t like what someone wants to do with their own land? Destroyed by outsiders?

    You live in one of the largest cities in the United States!! Did you think that once you moved to the neighborhood that no one else would ever want to live here?

  18. mds chill Says:

    Brandon, i feel like you have made this point several times — it’s not (at least for me) that we don’t want other people to move here; it’s that we chose to live in this neighborhood because of what it has. When i moved to West Philly fifteen years ago, that corner had a community garden and a beautiful Victorian mansion up the hill. Regardless of tax revenue, that sort of use is what i was looking for in a neighborhood where i lived, and West Philly has it in spades. Change and development are fine and necessary, but for a neighborhood with an established character they should be well-considered. (as a f’rinstance, the Green Line used to be a rundown and overpriced florist; now it’s a lively business, a meeting place, and an involved community partner!)

  19. Keith Says:

    I think you make a good point, but the flip side is that the lot has been overgrown with weeds and surrounded by ugly fencing for years. I would also hate to see a big eyesore of a building go in there, but at this point, almost any building within reason is better than what is there now.

  20. Brandon Says:

    You’re right. I have made the point several times. I don’t, however, feel that your position and mine are different. I also moved to West Philly because I was attracted to the beautiful architecture and tree-lined streets. I also agree that West Philly has it in spades. Certainly additional development along a transit corridor on a currently overgrown lot will not detract from that character. Also, the developer has shown every interest in taking the needs of the community into consideration. What I am against is people like the above commenter who think any development is bad development and people who are trying to insist that the developer provide a sea of parking when there is no need for a suburban looking parking lot in our neighborhood.

  21. Leeching off the community Says:

    I don’t think any development is bad development, Brendan: please don’t engage in sleazy argumentation. I just think this development is a bad idea, and I think it would be far better if the community had a real voice, rather than this empty show, in developments in the neighborhood. Just because you’d like to bring the suburbs to West Phil doesn’t mean that many or most of us share that desire. If you like big new apartment buildings with retail spaces, downtown Conshohocken awaits you.

  22. bigred Says:

    The reason we have a over grown lot, and not a garden, has to do with the present owners. If the garden was still there would you be so interested
    in the “anything is better” direction?
    If so, why not try to get a community garden included in the plans. At this point its all just talk; doesn’t a garden sound just as important as parking places?
    After all this talking is over guess what, they will build whatever they can get away with.

  23. Mark N. Silber Says:

    Sad to say, I think you are right. As one of the neighbors – living directly across the street – I promise you I will give it my best fight to oppose anything that takes away the beauty, historical character, and charm of our neighborhood.

  24. David Says:

    FYI, the community forum went live just recently:

  25. Brandon Says:

    How in the world do you get the idea that by arguing against more parking I “want to bring the suburbs to West Philly.” More parking is exactly what makes the suburbs suburban. I want West Philly to continue to be an urban neighborhood where I don’t have to have a car to get around and I don’t have to have my streetscapes ruined by giant parking lots. Again, I don’t know what more you want the developer to do to engage the community? What would be better? Also, this is not a case of an outsider imposing their will. One of the developers is a neighborhood resident.

  26. matt Says:

    I think undesirable tenants come in all forms, undergrads or not. If the apartments were priced high enough, and restricted to no more than two unrelated people living in the same unit, that could help reduce the problems that people seem to fear coming from undergrads.

    Who, really, would live here, if it’s not undergrads or young families (since there’s not enough room in Penn Alexander)? Grad students, maybe? In that case there’s not as much of a need for 60 parking spaces.

    If they do put in a parking lot, hopefully it can be behind the building and at least with a surface that is porous. Perhaps it can double as the wiffleball field.

  27. 49th Street Says:

    Another suggestion was a “restaurant that served good booze rather than a pub that served bad food.”


  28. eats Says:


  29. Brandon Says:

    I think there is room for two restaurants that serve good booze in the neighborhood. I go to Local for quizzo on Sundays and it is always packed.

  30. Sarah Says:

    The bar is often packed, especially on Sundays. The tables are not, due in large part to the strict policy requiring a full meal purchase in order to sit down…

  31. ashley Says:

    What a joke that the ‘community’ insists on certain retail outlets for this project while Baltimore Avenue is littered with empty retail spaces, because the community did not support those establishments when they had the chance. Stop building more retail space until the currently vacant spaces are filled with sustainable businesses.

  32. ashley Says:

    Also, instead of six (6) parking spaces, there should be zero (0). More free parking spaces just encourages more people to own cars.

  33. matt Says:

    This is kind of an extreme argument but there’s a good point here: if they think the rental market can support 90 apartments without parking, that means that all of those renters will come knowing that there’s no guaranteed parking. Perhaps those renters with cars will decide to search for an apartment where parking is easier, and this unit will attract renters without a car. Just like if I want to live at 22/walnut, I will realize that it’s not the easiest place to live with a car. What kind of renter is this place marketed towards? I think insisting on 60 parking spaces is a suburban mentality not an urban one.

  34. dan reed! Says:

    I agree. This site is literally on top of a trolley station and walking distance to lots of shops, restaurants, supermarkets and, of course, Philadelphia’s largest employer, UPenn. You don’t need a car to live here, and people who choose to live here know that. Most houses in University City don’t have private parking, yet people manage to get by. The same will happen here.

    Requiring an excessive amount of parking is a guaranteed way to ensure that nothing gets built here at all, whether by eliminating any room for an actual building or by making the building more expensive to build, which could make it financially infeasible OR require prices so high that renters/buyers won’t pay them.

  35. Val Says:

    I live around the corner from the proposed site. The students who live on my block own cars, often as many as 3-4 to a household. In contrast, single families on the block own one or no cars. Where did folks get the idea that off-campus students don’t own cars!

  36. The real 46er Says:

    Some people will always own cars, like it or not (eldery or less-able bodied the people who work or need to travel out of area). No parking means they will be parking in areas residents now park on-street. I’d like to see them make a secure bike parking area to encourage as much cycling as possible. Just trying to ban cars won’t work.

  37. anon Says:

    Or maybe people will just park on my street, 2 blocks away. I don’t think building 90 units without parking is going to enhance the quality of life for current residents–it will make parking a headache–or fullfill some green manifesto.

  38. Jack Says:

    While I would rather see fewer new retail spaces, I would much rather see something than nothing. And while I would rather see fewer cars than more cars, I would much rather that 90 new cars aren’t trying to park on the street right in that area. Is there any possibility of underground parking n that space?

  39. bigred Says:

    underground parking is certainly possible, just much more costly. I can’t imagine any of the parking spots being free. So if there is $$$ to be made from supplying parking, the builder/developers will probably try to add them.

  40. Elle Says:

    Is saying “no undergraduates” legal? I can’t see how it’s any different from saying “no cashiers” (discriminating on employment)or “no one under 22” (discriminating on age).

  41. admin Says:

    A few off-topic comments have been deleted. We welcome your opinions but please try to contribute to the thread. Thank you. FYI, even if only one sentence in your comment is objectionable, the whole comment will usually be removed.

  42. Elle Says:

    I didn’t realize we had to stay on topic. There are a lot of rules on this blog…

  43. Elle Says:

    (Apparently complaining about the food at Local 44 is objectionable. Who knew?)

  44. Erin Says:

    That’s standard operating procedure for most discussion boards and blogs.

    Some places are fine with going off topic but unless it’s specified off-topic is fine, it’s best to remain on the subject and take the off-topic conversation elsewhere.

    They’ve provided the community with a forum to take discussion to or wait for a blog post to be about that subject.

  45. rgl Says:

    why do you even do this blog if you delete comments from community members who have surely lived here longer than you?

  46. Bill Hangley Says:

    What gets completely lost in the parking debate is this: the more parking spaces they provide, the more people with cars who’ll move in. Conversely, the fewer spots you provide, the more people who use bikes/transit/carshare will move in. It’s pretty simple: if you want cars in the neighborhood, build parking. If you build parking in the neighborhood, you’ll get more cars.

    So neighbors will live to regret it, I suspect, if they successfully convince these folks to put a 50-car lot in there; that means that pretty much every apartment will have a car attached to it, and every tenant will arrive with the expectation that they too can and will have easy parking. If you build a place with 6-20 spots, and you won’t attract nearly as many cars.

  47. Brandon Says:

    Thank you! If we start requiring excessive amounts of parking we are setting a precedent that will eventually turn our quaint urban neighborhood into something like Columbus Blvd., a suburban hole in the urban fabric of a great city. Would you all rather live in Spruce Hill or Pennsport east of I-95? Because asking for tons of parking is asking for Baltimore Avenue to look more like a suburban strip.

  48. H Says:

    I wouldn’t say that argument has gotten completely lost; in fact it’s been stated several times by several people. The other argument being made is that people with cars will still move in, but will park in one of the few available spots on the street. I tend to believe the latter view. People with cars don’t move into 22nd & Walnut because there really is no free parking within blocks. But people with cars are still moving into Passyunk Square because of the promise of being able to park overnight in an ACME parking lot blocks away. And people with cars will probably still move into this building, knowing that they can go up Baltimore Ave a couple of blocks to find the free parking.

  49. Jack Says:

    Bill, this seems reasonable on the surface, but I would need some data to show that is likely to happen. I lived in Fairmount for a while, where there was no parking, but that didn’t in any way stop me from living there. Nor, did it stop the other people with whom I battled daily for a parking spot. There is a middle ground, a cadre of potential renters who will use alternative transport regularly, but still own a car for when they need one.

  50. Brandon Says:

    The data is out there. To take an extreme example, where do you think car ownership is higher–Fairmount or Cherry Hill? If we require every development to build parking lots, everyone will own cars, and we’ll see street parking eliminated entirely. Maybe not today, or tomorrow, but over the course of many years it will happen.

  51. H Says:

    The biggest reason car ownership is higher in Cherry Hill than in Fairmount is not lack or abundance of parking (though I don’t deny there’s a secondary correlation). The biggest reason is that public transportation is sparse and inadequate in the suburbs, and it’s almost a given that you’ll need a car when living there. That and your answer of “the data is out there” don’t really answer Jack’s need to see the data.

    You’re right that in the long haul, lack of parking discourages car owners from moving into a neighborhood, but this neighborhood still has enough nearby parking that I really don’t believe 6 or zero spots will deter many car owners from moving to this building.

    Perhaps there’s a middle ground number of spots – where parking is still scant enough to make car owners think long and hard about moving in – but not so scant that the more determined car owners (those who won’t be dissuaded by the lack of parking, either way) will be parking in the precious few available spots 3 blocks away.

  52. Brandon Says:

    But the lack of public transportation and the ample parking in Cherry Hill are two realities that have come from policies that promoted both. They are interconnected.

    Here are some links to check out:

  53. mub Says:

    …so you moved from Fairmount to a neighborhood with more ample parking.

  54. H Says:

    …and you assumed Jack’s car was the reason for his move.

  55. Jack Says:

    No, actually. Parking had absolutely nothing to do with the choice. That is my departure point: the availability of parking may or may not be a significant issue in attracting renters.

  56. admin Says:

    Again, this thread has nothing to do with Local 44. If you want to discuss their food you can do it in our forum. Thanks. @ Elle- We don’t require registration on our site to post comments, that’s why we have to have more rules. More info here:

  57. brendangrad Says:

    This car vs bike debate is stupid. These assumptions that if you limit the number of parking spots paid for by the building owner that you will automatically reduce the amount of people moving into the building who own cars is pretty naive. You are assuming that everyone is as rational a thinker as you are. You are assuming that everyone thinks about their ability to park near a place when they are considering it for rental.

    Everyone, take a walk around the two or three blocks in that vicinity. Pay attention to the number of open parking spots on the street. Let’s assume realistically that half of the those 92 units have a car owner living in them. Please find 46 open parking spots in that vicinity where you will fit them. The issue is not that there are extra cars driving around. 46 extra cars driving through the neighborhood is not going to be noticed. 46 less parking spots will be. And if you don’t make the building owners provide offstreet parking then you are allowing them to get rich off of our backs. It is completely common to require any building project to provide adequate parking for the residents it will bring. This company is trying to low ball the neighborhood by saying they will provide 6 spots, knowing that everyone will demand more. This a very common negotiating tactic. In the end after a fight the building will acquiesce to providing 15 or 20 spaces. Of course it should provide at least 40 for a 92 unit building, especially assuming there will be 2 people a unit.

    I don’t own a car so this won’t affect me personally. But if you own a car you will have to get use to circling the neighborhood far more looking for a parking spot. This in turn will add to traffic congestion and burn unneccesary gasoline.

  58. Brandon Says:

    1. There is ample data that shows that building parking lots induces more demand and attracts more people that own cars.

    2. Parking analyses have shown that there are literally hundreds of open spaces in the neighborhood at any given time. There are always a couple on my block. Some streets are worse than others, but you can usually find a spot pretty easily for such a dense area.

    3. Providing a huge parking lot will increase traffic congestion far more than anyone that might have to look for an on-street spot because the huge parking lot will encourage a lot more residence with cars to move into the neighborhood.

    4. Huge parking lots also have the negative consequence of increasing stormwater run-off and exacerbating the urban heat island effect.

  59. Lauren Says:

    Brandon, you’ve stated several times that there is “ample data” on this subject, but can you actually produce some of this data? It would be very helpful. Until then, I must take issue with one of your statements. These parking analyses (again, uncited) show that there are hundreds (200? 600?) of open spots in the neighborhood, and you say there are always several on your block. If there are 3 or 4 open spots per block (commonly referred to as “several”), it sounds like the “neighborhood” is covering a pretty large area. It’s one thing to walk 2 or 3 blocks from your car to your house, but 6, 8, 10 blocks is simply ridiculous.
    Also, you are spot-on regarding the environmental effects of an asphalt lot.

  60. no Says:

    Links to studies here. Please read up everyone on the concept of induced demand.

  61. Lauren Says:

    Many thanks! I will.

  62. Brandon Says:

    A good place to start would be to read some stuff from Donald Shoup, including his book The High Cost of Free Parking. The PlanPhilly article that no linked to below references that book and it is very well-known in planning circles.

  63. Brandon Says:

    Also, links to the parking analyses conducted by the developer are on their website. I believe the Philadelphia City Planning Commission have done parking studies in the area as well but I don’t see them online so you might have to call them up or go down to their office (1515 Arch). As far as my block is concerned, yes there are always a couple of open spots. I will admit that is not the case on all blocks but when I’ve had friends visit they’ve never had to park more than 2 or 3 blocks away and my friends in the neighborhood never have to park more than a few blocks from home.

  64. margems Says:

    15-20 spots sounds about right to me. I think that car ownership should be discouraged, and that includes people who already live here and own cars. If parking is more difficult to find, maybe some people will reconsider car ownership, or reduce the number of cars in a family.

  65. Brandon Says:

    Spot on Marge! I sold my car when I moved to West Philly because it is better for the environment and my health and all the amenities I need are readily accessible! The lack of surface parking lots is exactly what makes our neighborhood desirable.

  66. Bill Hangley Says:

    >>> ” You are assuming that everyone thinks about their ability to park near a place when they are considering it for rental.”

    That’s exactly what I’m assuming – – people choose housing based on their needs. If they drive every day and need an apartment with parking, they’ll shop accordingly. A market of non-drivers does exist. If you want to protect parking in the neighborhood, you need to encourage the owners to target that market.

    >>> “Let’s assume realistically that half of the those 92 units have a car owner living in them.”

    In West Philly 2013, there’s no reason to assume that. That’s the whole point. Drivers aren’t an inevitablity, they’re just a market. Marketing to non-drivers isn’t feasible in most places, but in West Philly – with its great transit/pedestrian connections to major employment centers – it is. If you really want to protect parking in Spruce Hill, you should encourage the builder to have ZERO parking, top-quality bike storage, and a marketing scheme that targets bike & transit commuters. Building fifty parking spots means a guarantee of fifty more cars – and realistically, more than fifty, since inevitably some residents will add another car or get one while waiting for a spot to open up etc. Want cars? Build parking!

  67. anon Says:

    I like the idea of a pub / wiffleball stadium. However, parking for games might be problematic. Would the restaurant be locally run our outsourced to Aramark?

  68. Merrill Clampet-Lundquist Says:

    No Aramark, don’t worry. Think Local 44 in an expanded form. That is the vision I have. 43rd Street, w/ a corner entrance on Baltimore Ave. I call it Trolley Dodger Corner. The wiffleball field behind it, given the address, would be (42) Jackie and (24) Willie’s Yard at Trolley Dodger Corner. I’m dreaming out loud at high volume.

  69. AMAC Says:

    I’d rather see an old-fashioned style apartment building: a three-sided building with a center garden, no first-floor retail, little on-site parking and lots of greenery surrounding the building that retains the old trees.

  70. mds chill Says:

    We can dream, can’t we?

  71. anon Says:

    I’d love to see a second Local 44 location at here (Local 43?). The first location is always packed. Having more square footage could accommodate a more family friendly vibe. Also, potential for outdoor seating would nicely compliment outdoor seating at Green Line, Best House and Clark Park. Great place to drink a beer, eat some food and people-watch. Wiffle ball would be cool too.

  72. Mark N. Silber Says:

    I am a homeowner in a Victorian “Twin” right across the street on the 4200 block of Baltimore Ave. and serve on the Board of Governors in the UCHS – University City Historical Society.

    I am deeply concerned about the architecture of the building … I feel it must reflect and pay homage to the charm and character of our late 19th Century Victorian “street car suburb.” I looked up info. on the architect that was selected for this project, and meaning no disrespect or criticism to this talented architect, but all I see are sleek modern structures with a lot of concrete. That will be an eyesore on this block. A little bit of red brick trim won’t help – we need a beautiful building that will be an ornament to our neighborhood.

  73. Molly Says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if a Starbucks popped up there. They’ve been known to cannibalize mom and pop coffee shops like Greenline.

  74. Elle Says:

    With the uproar that happened when the Subway moved in, I have a hard time seeing a Starbucks getting clearance.

  75. Molly Says:

    I’d love to believe that but last I checked Subway was serving up 11″ footlongs a few blocks down Baltimore Ave. You can’t stop capitalism.

  76. Brandon Says:

    There is already a starbucks just a couple of blocks away at 42nd and Woodland so I doubt it.

  77. mds chill Says:

    never stopped em before! i’ve seen Starbucks across the street from other Starbucks.

  78. David Says:

    Mark, come to the next meeting (date TBD) to express your concern!

  79. Mark N. Silber Says:

    I wish I could, but I’m going on a well deserved vacation. Don’t worry this week I’m contacting the Board of Governors of the University City Historical Society this week to try to use whatever influence it has to address the architectural preservation of my block and our neighborhood.

  80. bigred Says:

    I’d much rather have a great building with parking, then a poor building w/o parking! Don’t hold your breath for UCHS to do anything; what have they ever done?

  81. ashley Says:

    Good Lord, no more red brick. It is 2013, not the twilight of the “Victorian Era” (which was also false at the time, by the way).

    I hope the entire thing is a block of rammed earth.

  82. 45king Says:

    The real eyesore will be four story faux Victorians on the spot. Look at naval homes- nimbys in my old neighborhood objected strongly to 3 13 story towers and that is what they got. Would have preferred towers and green space.

    Architectural diversity shows vibrancy. A modern mid rise could blend if done well.

    Of course the project has to be high quality. But trying to force developers to replicate the size and style of late 19th century will backfire. Look at those pos 3 story houses on the sw side of the park hat ere just built.

  83. Mark N. Silber Says:

    “If done right” … that is highly unlikely. Look at the Homewood Suites on Walnut Street near 42nd – we don’t need another one of those on Baltimore Avenue. I insist that a concrete box with square windows would mar the charm and character of our neighborhood. I’m sure the developers want spend as little as possible and put up student housing to rent to college kids. A Condo would be much more desirable.

  84. Jack Says:

    Brandon, assuming you are correct, then someone (read: you) ought to compile some of that information so it can be included in the conversation. If its convincing then it speaks for itself. Instead of simply staking out a position, think in terms of convincing people. However, I would still like to know what options exist for underground parking.

  85. Brandon Says:

    Here are some examples of information that is out there related to induced demand, off-street parking, and building cities for cars:

  86. slugmother Says:

    On the topic of underground parking, would it be possible to have units that have a single-car garage built into their unit (townhouse-style) but all enclosed within the apartment complex, similar to University Mews? This way we avoid the unappealing look of a parking lot next to our beloved Clark Park.

  87. Leeching off the community Says:

    As another poster mentioned, there was a beautiful building and a community garden in that space. I understand that these delightful developers jumped the gun on permits and razed the building before the community had time to weigh in on the destruction of a landmark and community spot. Now they’re trying to sidle past the issue of whether a giant apartment building (90+ units!) AND a big retail space aren’t going to be a suburban nightmare in the midst of a residential, two and three story turn of the century neighborhood that already has massive parking problems due to having a very popular park, two universities, and three hospitals in the immediate area. There are no “one hundred” spaces around these blocks, which I intimately know as a resident of the immediate area. And if you add 90 units, that will take up those hundred anyway (duh!). If you don’t think a 90 unit apartment building with commercial space screams “suburban plight” in this quaint residential neighborhood, you are probably from the suburbs.

    In any event, I really wasn’t arguing that they should have 50 or 90 parking spaces: I was implicitly arguing that this monstrosity should not be built, period. Back to the drawing board. As for that retail space, that too will generate cars and parking problems. And you can be very sure that these developers are going to pimp it out to the first chain that comes along, so brace yourself for yet another CVS or McDonalds or KFC. Whatever they can squeeze in there to turn a buck.

  88. Leeching off the community Says:

    meant to write “suburban blight” though “plight” works as well…

  89. Elle Says:

    Will the developers get to decide what retail spaces move in, or will there need to be community approval? No idea how these things work.

  90. Leeching off the community Says:

    Not really, though as with the Subway shop debacle a few blocks away, there will be a community dog and pony show in which many neighbors object and then they will go ahead and lease it to the big chain. There is a fundamentally suburban ethos to West Phil in that anything new is good (Subway sandwiches, 90 unit apartment buildings with retail space), in contrast to a long-term, mindful, organic approach to development. Soon you’ll see people clamoring for whatever chain store wishes to lease the bottom floor of this tenement. Because they have no ability to imagine what this is going to do to the neighborhood and character over the long term.

  91. margems Says:

    The owner of the building that houses the Subway didn’t care what the community thought. UCD offered alternative tenants, but all the owner cared about was who could pay the most rent. The developers of this new project chose to conduct these community meetings to hear what people would like. I believe they will take community input into consideration, especially since at least one of the developers lives in the community.

  92. mary Says:

    The parcel is currently zoned RM-1, residential multi-family. Retail is not permitted and the owners will have to go before the Zoning Board of Adjustment to request a variance to allow any kind of commercial activity. So, right now they not only have no “right” to decide what kind of retail will move in, they have no “right” to retail in this location at all.

  93. mary Says:

    Currently NOT zoned for retail.

  94. admin Says:

    Dear readers – we’ve been dealing with some nasty trolls in this thread. Please continue your discussion and after this comment ignore anything posted by “admin” here. We are doing our best to ban these people. Julija

  95. Jack Says:

    OK, I took Brandon’s advice and read Donald Shoup’s work on parking. At the least, it provides a different context, a counter-intuitive context, for discussing the issue. Our perceptions of “parking” are formed by our experiences with it. Some days our parking karma is good: some days it’s bad. Whichever the case, we conceptualize parking as something we have to do: if something looks like to will make parking harder, we thinks it’s bad. If it appears to make parking easier, we think it’s good. Shoup is suggesting another way to think about it.

    For example (and I am trying to do this on the fly), I suggest we would like to have a development at this location that would retain some of the ambience of the area. That is much more likely if the developers are NOT forced to provide 50-60 parking spaces. They will have more money and more space to create a better structure. Marginally, residents will be less likely to own cars: many still will, but the difference might indeed be something we can feel. One final note. Shoup also suggests a few creative ways of monetizing curb parking to generate neighborhood income for neighborhood public development…without costing residents anything. Worth considering

  96. "leaching" should learn the law Says:

    and look up the words “by-right” while they are at it.

    BTW its a fundamentally suburban attitude to suggest zoning code City Council passed or basic constitutional property rights mean anything if I don’t like what someone wants to do (stupidly or not) with their own damn property.

  97. Leeching off the community Says:

    Great to hear from the Tea Party contingent–business is our god and must be worshiped and protected at all costs, from education to quality of life. Screw the residents, the community, the people: what does Business want? That’s the current mantra with the Department of Commerce, as well, as it fights the Good Fight for Business, saying it’s best for Business to close the schools, gut city services, so that Business can make as much money and do whatever it wants to. What fools, forgetting that Business is merely an apparatus, a shell, and that the people it sacrifices include even the ones who own it, as Business worship guts the city and the nation.

  98. Goldenmonkey Says:

    It’s so cute when kids come home from their freshmen year of college knowing everything.

  99. Cars and Subways Says:

    Hey all,

    I just wanted to say, the new subway is great. It’s a thriving business with constant foot traffic. The same can’t be said for the old “pickles and pies” or the new “culture” shop just down the street. Heck, in the 8 years that I’ve lived here, the “culture shop” (the one across from Milk & Money) has changed hands about 8 times.

    We have no clue what kind of businesses will open in the new space. West Philly isn’t as homogeneous as you think it is. Please consider that not everyone who frequents the street cares about your utopian dream of a farmers market on every corner. Some people just want a quick bite and maybe some free wifi.

    I’m happy to see that the neighborhood hasn’t gone to hell because of the subway. I’m also optimistic that we can perhaps endure a parking garage and 92-unit apartment complex. There is room for everyone. Even people who don’t look, dress, shop, or ride their bikes like you.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go get some terrible food at our local beer establishment and then buy a $6 ice cream sandwich from our local ice cream parlour…. Damn, it sure is expensive to live in West Utopian Philly. (I lied, I’m going to subway and getting a $3 six inch sub and to Sunoco for a $1 ice cream bar) We are not all the same.

  100. The real 46er Says:

    Constant traffic? I live right next to the Subway. I only see occasional customers and wonder how they stay open. It seems to serve the USD Watch and that’s about it. On the other hand, I’ve seen absolutely none of the negatives (traffic, trash) that everyone was so worked up over. The old African grocery that used to be there was more of a pain-with people double parking in the alley- than the Subway.

  101. Mary Says:

    Folks! Red herrings! That’s what “92 units and 6 parking spaces” are. The owners of 4224 do not now and never did have any intention of building such a structure. Debates among ourselves over cars and parking, retail and restaurants, undergrads vs. old folks are, at this point, a waste of time and a distraction from the issues posed by the owners’ actual intentions for the site.

    The “conditionally approved” plan submitted to L&I is a classic stalking horse, a sham proposal intended to forestall any serious consideration of the project they really want to build – what they so delicately refer to as an “alternate plan”. The owners themselves admit their determination to “maximize the potential” of the lot, which means ignoring its current zoning (RM-1, Residential Multi-family) for height (38 foot limit) and for use (NO retail).

    The community should not be fooled by threats of erecting a 92-unit apartment building with 6 parking spaces. Their claim that that project is as-by-right would not survive any serious scrutiny by L&I or the ZBA. RM-1 zoning is intended to govern building in rowhouse neighborhoods – NOT as a recipe for the construction of large, many-unit apartment buildings. That is why the square footage requirements are so small and why there is no parking requirement. This zoning is aimed at making allowances for the difficulties of doing in-fill construction in the small, cramped streets of places like rowhouse South Philly and Queen Village. In fact, the city erred in giving the parcel an RM-1 zoning – it probably should be rezoned to RTA (Residential Two-family Attached, aka twin) or RSA (Residential Single Family Attached, aka rowhouse) to conform with the surrounding uses and to help fulfill Spruce Hill’s stated goal of increasing home ownership.

    The community should require the owners to submit a legitimate proposal that is reasonable in mass and dimensions and whose design is respectful of its environment of historic residences and the much-loved Clark Park. Zoning laws are the most effective means a community has at its disposal for protecting its neighborhood and guiding its development. The neighbors of 4224 must be careful that the owner-led discussions of their project do not result in the community needlessly negotiating away these rights.

  102. 45king Says:

    They can build ugly 4 story residential by right. The less density, the uglier the project will be. That is the tradeoff.

    This is Common sense. If the cost of land is spread over 90 units, more money per unit can go into the construction and rest of the project.

    What is a red herring is the idea the developer will rebuild 19th century Victorians.

    Low density low rise will equal low quality.

  103. Val Says:

    Thanks for this thoughtful, detailed, informative post, Mary. I am sure that most of us didn’t realize they weren’t zoned for what they were proposing: a dirty trick indeed, just as was their apparent razing of the building before getting zoning. Fool us once, okay, but to pull the same trick twice: unconscionable.

  104. Val Says:

    oops–meant they razed the building before they got the permits to do so, from what I understand. Now they’re tricking us into *supporting* proposals that would require re-zoning. Unbelievable.

  105. Val Says:

    I think we are wise to heed Mary, above. The developers are pulling a nasty rhetorical trick on us by getting us to concede to all sorts of crazy things, such as 92 unit apartment buildings and 7 parking spaces–and they don’t have the zoning to do so. They are going to use our comments as a basis for zoning change. I think that property owners–those who pay taxes here–should have a strong voice in whatever unfolds. Undergraduate and graduate students and occasional visitors to Clark Park, and other people who are short-term tenants or live more than a few blocks from the site, while good to hear from, are not the ones whose quality of life and property values are going to be affected by whatever is decided. It’s very easy for people who live 6 or 10 blocks away to call for a wiffle ball court or 92 apartment unit or Walmart, or to insist that our particular piece of the neighborhood should become an experiment in discovering whether, by not providing any parking spaces, we can socially engineer people out of car ownership.

  106. leonard Says:

    I agree very much with both Val and Mary. While I am not a homeowner (i rent an apartment a few blocks away from the proposed sight), I still have a strong concern about this project for the sake of aesthetic preservation of the neighborhood.
    The developers do indeed seem to be very strategic in how they have orchestrated this process. For example, many of the articles about this lot proposal talk about it as if the lot had been vacant and blighted for decades. There seems to be a collective amnesia about the historic property (dating from the 19th century) that stood there until four years ago. Thus by demolishing the historic house and allowing the lot to remain vacant for several years, people seem to have forgotten this act of “civic vandalism,” thereby creating a sense of desperation for this lot to be developed by any means necessary. Of course, it is impossible to turn back time. But the deceptive nature of this development company should not be overlooked and the illegal demolition of the historic property should at the very least be used as leverage by the Spruce Hill homeowner community in order to negotiate a design that does not stain the aesthetic fabric of the neighborhood.
    If the the developers get their way with this scorched earth policy of demolition followed by years of blighted vacancy, then what kind of horrible precedent will this set for the neighborhood.

  107. Brandon Says:

    I’m sorry, but you are incorrect. The conditional use approval means that they’ve been granted the right to build 93 units with 6 parking spaces on this site. The developer is extending an olive branch to the neighborhood by considering alternative proposals, but they can already build what has been conditionally approved tomorrow if they wanted to. The retail aspect is not a part of the conditional approval and is only being considered because some residents have expressed an interest in that.

  108. Cars, bikes, people Says:

    It’s good to keep in mind that thriving neighborhoods are diverse. Not all of us live the life of superannuated graduate students and hipsters who can easily address most transportation needs with a fixed gear bike. People with children, people with certain disabilities or with disabled or elderly in their families, people who must use cars for their employment (e.g., sales, delivery, travel) or whose employment is not close to public transportation–which, by the way, includes many less privileged people. In urban areas, the most privileged tend to live closest to their place of employment.

  109. William Says:

    Ignoring your stereotyped reductive argument as to the kinds of people that chose to go carless, plenty of non-privileged parents cannot afford a car but are able to make use of public transportation. Those who do have a choice still may choose not to contribute to the air, noise, and street pollution car ownership entails, and find places like Spruce Hill an ideal place to get around, as well as commute to jobs downtown or even out of the city.

  110. GoldenMonkey Says:

    The only problem those folks have is getting sore patting themselves on the back.

  111. William Says:

    If so, they are certainly justified.

  112. GoldenMonkey Says:

    I couldn’t have written your response. Thank you.

  113. Mary Says:

    Zoning Alert! While the owners of 4224 are trying to convince neighbors to make concessions on the size and use of their project, they are working behind the scenes to have the property’s zoning permanently changed from residential to commercial mixed use. In an area almost completely composed of twin and row, single-family residences, planners for the city are proposing to convert almost half a residential block into a commercially-zoned property. They include the health center in this rezoning and have signalled their intention to demolish the center in order to increase the size of the 4224 property and make it more attractive to investors. In this scenario, the city would then RENT BACK space from the owners for the health center.

    This proposal, I believe, should be vigorously opposed on two grounds: 1st, it is a clear case of illegal spot zoning and 2nd, if it succeeds, the community will lose its rights to influence the development of this important space.

    This proposal is part of the University Southwest District Plan, now in its final draft stage and ready to be acted on by the City Planning Commission. It will ultimately require approval by City Council. If you believe, as I do, that this upzoning of 4224 is contrary to the neighborhood’s goals and the plan’s own stated purpose of promoting single-family home ownership, then you should contact the plan manager, Andrew Meloney either by phone: 215-683-4656 or email: The public comment period ends tomorrow, May 31st!

    By the way, the plan also proposes re-zoning the many properties in our neighborhood whose use does not conform with zoning. This is a particularly serious problem in Spruce Hill (32% of all properties). In almost all cases, this involves properties zoned for single-family use being illegally used as multi-family. The district plan proposes to rezone many of these single-family properties to multi-family. Your opinion of this proposal will probably depend on whether you are a landlord or a homeowner who lives next door to an animal house. In any case, you can let Andrew Meloney know what you think of this idea. You can see the full plan at Apologies for the length of this post. Mary

  114. Val Says:

    Thanks, Mary. Do you mind if I share your post with my neighborhood listserv?

  115. mary Says:

    Not at all, Val. Go right ahead.

  116. Val Says:


  117. William Says:

    I agree the last thing we need is another pharmacy, particularly another generic chain like CVS. At the same time, I’m not sure we should be encouraging more drivers to the area. We are well served by trolley, bus, and the EL, and the neighborhood is very walkable. If folks want to live in a city, why make it ever more like the suburbs?

  118. William Says:

    Does anyone have information on the zoning notice put up at the 423 Stonehurst building on 45th and Osage? Notice is for residential properties, which I assumed was its current use.

  119. Val Says:

    @William. I didn’t see any zoning permit requests on the site, but if you have the actual address you should be able to plug it in here, I think, choose “zoning permit” from the rolldown under events, and find out:

  120. Gregg Says:

    I may be interested in engaging in a frank and productive dialogue.

  121. Hello! Says:

    @Leeching off the community: How in the world do you consider high-density housing a hallmark of suburbia? Your understanding of urban vs. suburban communities is 180 degrees off.

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