After years of planning and community meeting after community meeting, people are starting to wonder if the grand residential building proposed for the corner of 43rd and Baltimore will ever get built.
“I’ve given up going to the Farmers’ Market on Saturdays because I’m tired of people asking me what the problem is,” Barry Grossbach, the chair of Spruce Hill Community Association zoning committee said at a recent meeting.
In case you had forgotten, construction on a 132-unit residential building at 4224 Baltimore Ave. complete with a full-service restaurant overlooking Clark Park was supposed to begin this summer. Delays on construction projects in the city are not that uncommon, so observers of the process waited. Soil samples were taken, more engineering studies were ordered, construction plans were submitted and re-submitted. But nothing has happened at the large, empty lot at 43rd and Baltimore.
This followed months of large community meetings hosted by U3 Ventures, a real estate consulting firm run by two neighborhood residents. One of those residents, Tom Lussenhop, was at that recent Spruce Hill zoning meeting for an unrelated project when Grossbach demanded answers.
“We are limited partners,” Lussenhop said. “We do not have neither the responsibility nor the rights to move the project forward.”
A New York firm, Clarkmore LLC, owns the property. The firm could have built an apartment building by right, skirting the community process, but instead hired U3 to put together a much more ambitious plan that would require community support.
U3’s job was to get the community on board for the project, which required zoning variances because of its size. Dozens of residents attended community meetings on Penn’s campus where craft beer was served and they reviewed and commented on the building’s design.
The openness of the process drew praise from zoning officials and Philadelphia Inquirer architecture critic Inga Saffron.
Lussenhop said that he was unsure when the project would begin or what was holding it up.
“Our goal is to see it move to construction, but we can’t control that.”
Grossbach pressed, but could not get any assurances.
“We bought this because you guys came to us in an open way,” he said. “We want some deadlines.”