Proposed 21-unit building at 46th and Spruce draws concerns about parking

March 8, 2016

46th and Spruce

Developers present plans for a 21-unit apartment building at 46th and Spruce to the Spruce Hill Community Association zoning committee on Monday night. (Photo by West Philly Local)


Plans to build a four-story apartment building to replace the burned-out, single-floor building on the corner of 46th and Spruce drew concerns about parking and the flurry of new nearby apartment building construction last night during a meeting of the Spruce Hill Community Association (SHCA) zoning committee.

The proposed brick and metal panel building at 4534-36 Spruce St. would include 21 mostly two-bedroom apartments, ground-floor retail and a rooftop deck. The developers need a variance from the Zoning Board of Adjustment to get to the building’s proposed height – 44 feet.

A 2011 fire gutted the current structure, a transitional housing facility. The building has been vacant since the fire.

Parking was the biggest concern at last night’s meeting. The proposal does not include on-site parking, and nearby residents are concerned that this building along with the new 40-unit apartment building at 46th and Walnut, and the 15-unit building built between two Victorian twins on the 200 block of S. 45th Street will make finding a spot exceedingly difficult. 

“I’ve watched my parking decrease, decrease, decrease,” said one resident.

Developers made some changes to a plan they brought before zoning committee last summer, reducing the number of units from 24 to 21 and adding 6,000 square feet of ground-floor retail, which will likely be divided among three businesses. Possible tenants include a café, a “fitness-oriented” business, and maybe even a small community bank.

The developers, led by attorney Ricky Liss, said the building’s mostly two-bedroom apartments will likely range from 800 to 1,000 square feet and will not be marketed toward undergraduate students.

“This is not being designed as a student housing project,” Liss said.

A plan to build affordable housing on the location fell through last summer after Mission First Housing Group was unable to secure funding for the project.

At least one more public meeting will likely be scheduled to discuss the proposal before it goes before the Zoning Board of Adjustment.

– Mike Lyons

22 Comments For This Post

  1. GX Says:

    None of the apartment buildings on the other corners, or in the adjacent apartment building on 46th, or any of the big multi-unit twins on Spruce, have parking. Why should this one? If we listened to these neighbors, our beautiful neighborhood never would have been built in the first place, or it would look like Upper Darby.

  2. mds chill Says:

    I certainly hope these “parking concerns” don’t derail any of these projects. Setting aside the fact that there is an enormous amount of on-street parking in west Philly, more and more people are going carless in general. Parking supply will never be a problem out here.

  3. ECW Says:

    Speaking as someone who has to commute to a suburb not well served by SEPTA, parking at the corner of 46th and Spruce is DEFINITELY a worsening problem. I often have to park several blocks from home as it is.

  4. Bianca Says:

    Food for thought…

  5. Bianca Says:

    The tl;dr: “Minimum parking requirements subsidize cars, increase traffic congestion and carbon emissions, pollute the air and water, encourage sprawl, raise housing costs, exclude poor people, degrade urban design, reduce walkability and damage the economy. To my knowledge, no city planner has argued that parking requirements do not have these harmful effects. Instead, a flood of recent research has shown that parking requirements have these effects and more. We are poisoning our cities with too much parking.”

  6. dave Says:

    thanks for posting Bianca. I love Prof. Shoup. Short video on the high cost of free parking:

  7. Mark Says:

    As a homeowner in Spruce Hill I will concede that parking is getting scarcer and scarcer. As property owners we have seen our city taxes double in the past two years. How can anyone claim the amount of parking is “enormous”??? On the other hand we live in a big city, and that is a price we have to pay for living in a dense and urban area. I propose a solution: ALL on the street parking in Spruce Hill have a two hour restriction except for residents who have a “#2” permit. You see much of our problem is caused by commuters from the suburbs who park in our neighborhood free and take the trolley into center city, or students who live in the dorms and park their out of state cars and park in our neighborhood.

  8. GX Says:

    I’m also a homeowner (and two-car owner!) in Spruce Hill, and a near neighbor to this project. Street parking (which is to say, the city subsidizing the cost of parking by giving over a portion of public space for people to park for free) might be harder to find than it used to be, but it is much better than in plenty of other neighborhoods. This is probably because there is bountiful public transit, including the very useful and popular #42 bus stopping directly across the street from the proposed project, more bus lines just a few blocks away on Chestnut and Walnut, and the MFL a ten minute walk away. And also: bringing retail to this corner means we in the neighborhood might be able to walk to do errands, rather than drive.

    Mark is right that the obvious solution is more residential permit parking; the blocks around this project do not not require residential permits. If neighbors really care about parking they should be working to bring permit parking to Spruce and 46th between Spruce and Pine.

  9. concerned citizen Says:

    Parking was NOT NOT NOT the biggest concern.

    Who wrote this up? Were they paid off too?

  10. Harvey Says:

    The biggest concern, clearly, was density and setbacks. Saying that parking is the biggest concern is ambiguous and off topic. Because, by focusing the public debate on parking, and not the more important issues, the zoning board is clearly aware of the difficulty of creating off street parking in these dense neighborhoods with small lots, and if this is the only issue raised, they will grant the variances.

    The REAL issues:

    density, number of units

    use: proposed commercial space

    setbacks. They are providing no setbacks. This, is insulting.

    Aesthetic. The building was more fit in northern liberties, or south broad street, than west philly. Look at the beautiful apartment buildings adjacent to this lot.

  11. Mike Lyons Says:

    @concerned citizen/Harvey

    You’re right. As in the July meeting for this project, density was raised as an issue (parking is a density issue) as were setbacks and retail. We mention that they dropped the number of units from 24 to 21 in response to concerns during the last meeting about density. We mentioned the retail space and who they would like to get in.

    They added a setback along Spruce – 10 feet further back than the current building. Aesthetics was brought up – we mentioned “brick and metal” construction – but the zoning committee agreed that this would be a bigger topic during the next meeting.

    Parking was raised by numerous people last night. Whether it is the most important concern depends on your perspective, but last night it was raised often and talked about a lot.

  12. Mary McGettigan Says:

    Parking is just a dogwhistle. Numerous other topics were discussed at last night’s meeting: number of units, roof deck, setbacks, lot coverage, lack of landscaping, amount of retail and quality of retail tenants. A very large contingent of neighbors turned out. For a full account of the meeting:

  13. Mike Says:

    I know people that are thinking about leaving the neighborhood because of the parking problems. There are NOT hundreds of available parking spots in the neighborhood to accomodate the hundreds of new families who will be moving in.

    The video with Professor Shoup totally missed the point.
    “Paid vs. Free” parking is not the question here. Not enough available parking **IS** the problem. What do you think “density” means? Not enough space for normal activities.

    That burned out building would be a idea place to add a parking structure. But the proposed plan only contributes to the problem. To suggest that all these new families won’t need cars is absurd. This isn’t sunny California and adding a few bike racks and depending on SEPTA is not a reasonable solution.

  14. watchcat Says:

    Yeah, now I’ve heard it all. Parking causes pollution. So the obvious remedy would be for the tenants at these eyesores to sign a binding pledge not to drive their cars in West Phiily or have friends drive here to visit them, no problem, right?

  15. Hello! Says:

    @Mike: let your friends who are considering moving because of parking that the suburbs are great for parking. They could have their own driveways and garages! If they choose to live in a major city, though, they may have some parking troubles 🙁

  16. Emma Says:

    Parking is a privilege, not a right. Even if you own a home it doesn’t entitle you to an on street parking spot.

    With that said, making all parking 2 hour max unless you have a Zone 2 permit would prevent college students and out of towers from filling up spaces with long term parking. I’ve seen some students park an entire semester without moving.

  17. AmericanWoman Says:

    There is a car parked at clark park with tags from virginia expired 2013… Has not been moved since I’ve been here (3years now) it has plant life growing from it. Why does it stay when other people get towed. Theres a Green Van parked for 6 months on chester by 42nd expired tags…. Sits there yet if you park in the loading zone to load some beer from the store you get a ticket and a tow…
    So point being be an out of towner with expired plates and you may park. Be a decent tax payer with good registration You get the TOW

    There is GREAT disparity in the west!

  18. John Says:

    @AmericanWoman – submit a request to 311 to have the car towed

  19. watchcat Says:

    No matter how you slice it the influx of more people than the neighborhood can hold means more cars added to an already toxic situation. In addition to parking it means longer lines of cars running their motors outside the two gas stations (especially Sunoco,which adds nothing to the community but carbon monoxide and aggressive panhandlers).

  20. Kathleen Says:

    “More people than the neighborhood can hold”?? You do realize that there are 500,000 fewer people living in Philadelphia now than there were in the 1950s? There has been a small — very, very small increase in population of the city since 2000 (and I’m sure they haven’t all flocked to University City). How on earth does that translate to “more people than the neighborhood can hold”?

  21. watchcat Says:

    I think a disproportionate number probably ended up in “University City.”

    Why are people so enthusiastic about adding more cars to the mix? It’s ironic that business owners are so eager to put café-style tables & chairs out for people to suck up the fumes while eating. What exactly is the advantage of adding more exhaust & other toxins to the environment?

  22. Lorraine Says:

    I moved here from New York many years ago. I’ve always thought Philadelphia, especially West Philly, could stand to be a little denser. It would help us attract more services to the area.

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