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First Zoning Approval meeting for 4224 Baltimore scheduled for March

Posted on 18 February 2014

The proposed building looking east near the corner of 43rd and Baltimore.

After a year of debate, planning, and collaboration, the zoning approval process will finally begin next month for the widely discussed and advertised development at 4224 Baltimore Avenue. The Spruce Hill Community Association (SHCA) Zoning Committee has scheduled its first meeting in that process for Monday, March 3, from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. in room 101 of the University of the Sciences’ Rosenberger Hall on 43rd Street and Woodland Avenue.

During the meeting, U3 Ventures—the development team and liaison behind 4224 Baltimore Avenue—will review their progress and details of the project’s potential design, which they unveiled in late July at the last of three public meetings held throughout the 2013. The final development plan, established based on feedback from the community meetings, includes a proposed glossy 153,000 square foot mixed-use building with 108 residential units and retail on the first-floor—an alternative to the conditional zoning permit property owner Thylan Associates received in March 2013 for a four-story, 92-unit residential building with six parking spaces and no commercial space.

On March 3rd, the SHCA Zoning Committee will also consider zoning variances U3 Ventures is seeking in order to make this sizeable project a reality. According to the 4224 Baltimore Avenue website, there are two possible roads for U3 Ventures to take in obtaining permits for the alternative plan: either by receiving a zoning variance by the Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) or adopting a land-use change ordinance issued by the City Council. The team hopes that, by having this meeting, they’re able to reach “a community consensus as to precise project scope and related project details” that will make choosing which approach to take a bit clearer.

Interested residents and stakeholders are invited to join the March 3rd meeting to both share their insights and ask questions about the plan, as well as offer comments regarding the variances sought by U3 Ventures.

-Annamarya Scaccia

20 Comments For This Post

  1. Cheshire Agusta Says:

    Kinda big….ain’t it? Seems a shame to transform a relatively stately area opposite the park into a big dust magnet.

  2. Dorsay Says:

    I agree, Cheshire. That is one big fugly building.

  3. ross Says:

    I agree with the both of you and suggest to the two of you who voiced your discontent over the building’s design to come to the zoning meeting and voice your concern.

  4. watchcat Says:

    I guess this makes four. Anyone with anything to say in favor?

  5. Strongforu Says:

    A nice row of upscale or even moderately priced townhomes with garages would have been the best use of that space. A monstrosity like the proposed building facing the park will forever change our lovely neighborhood.

  6. Daniel Says:

    Why does the architect continue to downplay the low high rise in the background. What we need to see as a neighborhood is an elevation of the proposed project that extends from 42nd to 44th (Clark park). Please show us something other than a forced perspective.

  7. CBC Says:

    IF they’d put a Trader Joe’s in the commercial space, I’d hate it less… but only slightly.

  8. Travesty Says:

    The lack of parking will be a disaster for neighbors.

  9. guest Says:

    Bringing density right next to clark park is a great idea and will further strengthen the corner. While not nec the biggest fan of this rendering, I am sure it will be a fine building

  10. PhillyAcey Says:

    In addition to the aesthetics, I am concerned about the impact on the already over crowded Penn Alexander School. What will future lottery chances be? Will the units be studios for students, or three bedrooms for families?

  11. Locust Street Says:

    Where were all these comments-section naysayers at the community meetings organized by the developers? I attended all of them, and I would say the plan received enthusiastic support from probably 90% of the people in attendance.

    And PhillyAcey, are you really suggesting we should curtail development because the school is over-crowded? That’s pretty backward thinking, and I say that as a catchment parent. Increased population should be an argument for a larger school, not the other way around.

  12. mbomb Says:

    This is not only aesthetically disturbing but not a need of the community. There will make parking a disaster, increase local living costs, likely bring in a bunch of students, and be an eye sore against the beautiful architecture of the neighborhood. Shocking that these issues have not been addressed.

  13. meeting Says:

    I was also at the meeting and it is a bit presumptuous to call the plan “enthusiastically” supported by the attendance. U3 ventures and the architect kept making veiled threats that if they were not able to build up to 10 stories or more, the low-rise structure (which the plot is zoned for) would be ugly and poorly constructed. During the discussion sections, I heard many attendees voice concern over the size of the project, but many of them assumed their hands were tied due to the careful rhetoric utilized by u3 ventures and the architect. At the end of the third meeting, U3 ventures conducted an informal vote; however, the question asked was not if the attendees were in “enthusiastic support” of the current 10-story plan, but if they wanted to continue working with the consulting company. I assume this vote will be referenced during these upcoming zoning meetings, but let it be known that the question that prompted the vote was not asking about overall support for the plan as it was presented in the third meeting last summer.

  14. Locust Street Says:

    The vast majority of the people I spoke with in the various discussion groups at all of the meetings were enthusiastic. There were very few people who opposed the project. It’s not a presumption. It’s an observation. If there are significant numbers of people who feel differently, they should show up at the zoning committee meeting.

  15. PhillyAcey Says:

    Locust Street: it is my understanding from Penn’s response to the PAS related dialogue from 2013 that no changes are being made to PAS. Period. But hey, I am on board if PAS expands. Absolutely.

  16. Locust Street Says:

    PhillyAcey, I understand that. But if there was a giant influx of students (not that I think this development would lead to that) the school district would have to accommodate them in some way. That would be a good problem to have. In any case, you can’t let a perceived scarcity in a particular school hamstring the natural growth of an entire neighborhood.

    And I say “perceived” because it’s my understanding that if current lottery totals hold, it will have been two years since a child was actually turned away from kindergarten. But that’s a discussion for another article.

  17. PhillyAcey Says:

    Locust Street: I admire your optimism. Unfortunately, I do not share it. The following link discusses how a nearby metropolis dealt with a similar situation: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/30/nyregion/at-an-overcrowded-school-in-park-slope-no-one-wants-to-leave.html

  18. Locust Street Says:

    Thanks for the link. There’s a lot of parallels there. I’m not sure I’d go so far as to call it optimism. Let’s just say I’m not pessimistic enough to allow the (short-term?) issues with the school be the major determining factor on how the neighborhood gets developed in the long term.

  19. mary Says:

    I agree that the question of how the Penn Alexander School can meet the needs of families in the neighborhood is a separate issue from how the property at 4224 Baltimore Avenue should be developed. When families want to move into a neighborhood, it’s a good thing and should never be discouraged. However, the developers of 4224 are promoting the notion that our neighbors don’t want townhouses or condos on the site because these would bring in more families and increase the pressure on PAS. The fact is, though, that it’s easier for them to get financing right now for the kind of development that they are proposing: housing for grad students or recent graduates, and they can make more money, quicker from such a project (typically flipped after about 5 years). You can see these kinds of apartment buildings aimed at 20-somethings being proposed all over the city. There is nothing inherently evil about these projects, they just need to be in the right place and, in my opinion, 43rd and Baltimore is not the right place. Well, not just my opinion, our zoning code says so too.

  20. EE Says:

    Has the rescheduled meeting date been set?

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