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Staunch opposition to new Garden Court apartment building voiced at community meeting

January 19, 2018

Post Bros. co-founder Mike Pestronk during presentation of the proposed addition to the Garden Court Plaza at 47th and Pine at last night’s Garden Court zoning committee meeting.

A crowd of about 70 people gathered to hear about a proposed 243-unit addition to the Garden Court Plaza complex on the 4700 block of Pine Street voted overwhelmingly against the plan.

Proposed building rendering (view from Pine Street).

Post Bros., the current owners of Garden Court Plaza, want to erect an adjacent building that would bring the total number of residential units of the complex at the corner of 47th and Pine to 389. The plan requires the city to issue variances for both building height and density. Current zoning for the site allows for a building with a maximum height of 38 feet. The proposal would double the density maximum for the site, currently set at 170 units. 

Residents gathered at last night’s meeting of the Garden Court Association zoning committee raised concerns about affordable housing, parking and the planned brick and cement building’s aesthetic harmony with nearby structures.

The new building would be built on top of the existing parking garage, adjacent to the community garden on Spruce Street and would include a large landscaped courtyard off of 47th street. It would be connected to the existing building by a glass-covered walkway, and the current entrance would be used for both buildings.

The building’s exterior would be dark brick and cement panels.

“We want to build a building that isn’t faux historical or cheesy,” said Post Bros. co-founder Mike Pestronk, who fielded questions during the presentation.

Echoing concerns expressed at almost every community meeting in this part of West Philly focused on new buildings, many in the audience talked about parking.

“The neighborhood can’t take it,” said one resident. “Most people who live within five blocks of here can’t get a parking spot after a certain hour.”

Pestronk responded that surveys of current residents show that many don’t own cars. He added that the existing parking garage for the building is underused and could absorb some of the added parking.

Affordable housing was another sticking point for many.

“It’s just not what we do,” Pestronk said.

Prices for one-bedroom apartments in the proposed building would be just over $2,000 per month, Pestronk said. Two bedrooms, two baths would run about $3,300 per month.

Several audience members continued to push Pestronk on affordable housing. Resident Michael Froehlich called Pestronk’s “defeatist” attitude “old Philadelphia.”

“Things have changed,” Froehlich said.

Mary McGettigan of the group West Philadelphians for Progressive Planning and Preservation reminded Pestronk of Clarence Siegel, the developer who built much of the Garden Court neighborhood.

“What made Garden Court so special was that he catered to a variety of people,” she said. “I think you would benefit from considering that.”

The final vote was 6 for the project, 47 against and 8 “not opposed,” meaning they were neither for nor against. The vote is not binding, but is considered when the Zoning Board of Adjustment makes a final decision.

Photos by Mike Lyons/West Philly Local.

19 Comments For This Post

  1. lets do this elsewhere Says:

    How do we oppose the apartment building they are planning for 52nd and Willows?

  2. Didi Says:

    No one should believe the claims that new residents won’t have cars. That’s what they said for the building in the old West Philly HS building, and many of those tenants have cars. Parking has become a nightmare in the past year on 47th Street.

  3. Bob Says:

    I don’t think anyone believes that new residents will not have cars. I do think that adding 500 resident will not add 400 cars which is what I heard there.

    I’d imagine it to be more likely to be 1/4 or 1/5 will have cars so that would be 100-125 cars which I believe their parking lot could handle. Although, it might mean they have to kick non-tenants out of it or as they stated, raise the price because they’re all about market rates and if people will pay, they will charge!

  4. Bob Says:

    @lets do this elsewhere: What is the issue with that building? Isn’t it currently abandoned? I believe they have all the proper permits for doing what they are doing.

  5. bw Says:

    folks do realize that public street parking is just that, not a private right to a dedicated spot?? anyone who makes the claim that they “want” more parking is inherently selfish.

    besides that no surprise here, major variances needed (albeit the site is under zoned).

    the 52nd street development is purely a winner, adaptive reuse of a vacant eyesore. cant wait to vote yes for that one.

  6. Bob Says:

    I agree, I think the 52nd street development is great. It is an vacant eyesore with a lot of potential. I hope they are able to develop it well in a way that will help invigorate that area.

  7. Didi Says:

    It’s not an unreasonable expectation when you pay money for your residential parking permit, that you should be able to park in your neighborhood and that is no longer the case.

  8. bw Says:

    didi – looks like you should have a conversation with the city who is clearly failing at maintaining a supply/demand balance

  9. Mike Lynch Says:

    Bw, if they allow more housing units without requiring more provisions for parking, the city is doing just that.

  10. Michael McGettigan Says:

    The outcry over parking sounds as if every person was issued a car at birth, separation from which would be fatal. My father managed to work and support a family of 8 kids while taking the trolley daily (from 47th & Chester Ave) to his job in Center City. He was not extraordinary (at least not from a transit point of view) . A car was for trips to the supermarket on weekends. The extraordinary number of cars per household in University City, most of which don’t move for weeks at a time, is much of the problem. Expecting a city lifestyle AND demanding to park a stone’s throw from your apartment in that same dense city is delusional.

    Forcing developers to build car-centric buildings plays into that delusion.

    — Michael McGettigan / Trophy BikesPHL

  11. Ted Zellers Says:

    In 98% of the USA it is easy to own and park a car. University City is an unusually strong nexus of jobs and public transit, not to mention proximity to Center City for those who like to bike. This is the perfect place to build for people who want to save money by not owning a car. If people indeed “can’t get a parking spot after a certain hour”, then this makes owning a car even less desirable for newcomers.

  12. Meredith Says:

    Wow – someone has the nerve to talk about being selfish for wanting access to parking. Another talks about their saintly father who raised 8 kids, walked 10 miles in the snow, blah, blah, blah, etc.
    Just because you own a bike shop doesn’t mean everyone can ride a bike, everyone in west philly is not under the age of 25. Not everyone has the medical capacity or coordination capacity – a person with multiple sclerosis – a disease of young women, or Parkinson’s. We are not all your hipster selves. Not everyone who lives here works in the city. Do you know of any trains that go out to the KOP and pharmaceutical drug areas???? No, but oops,those people that work out there must somehow be capitalistic pigs.
    Let’s have a little consideration for diversity and different ways of life. RIde your bike if you like, how about we get rid of Uber and Lyft – they’re the ones increasing the amount of traffic. People are going to have cars, whether you like it or not. Increasing the number of residents in one block, even if only one-quarter have cars will greatly effect traffic, parking, rent prices, etc.
    I hope beyond hope that Amazon doesn’t come to Philly because none of us hard-working people will be able to afford to live here.

  13. Emily Says:

    “It’s just not what we do” – whaaat? This is a terrible attitude that is not remotely neighborly. These proposed rents are astonishing. God this company sounds terrible.

  14. Bob Says:

    http://www.gardencourtca.org/single-post/2018/01/20/Update-Proposed-Development-at-4701-Pine-St

    Quote:
    The Post Brothers have heard our voices loud and clear and want to work with the community to address the issues raised at the meeting. They do not intend to proceed with the project without community support. As a result, their zoning application has been put on hold. GCCA Zoning Committee will be working with the Post Brothers to meaningfully address our community’s concerns, especially with regards to housing affordability.

  15. Bob Says:

    @Emily, the rents are astonishing but they said they will keep raising them as long as people keep paying.

    They’ve also added a ton of fees to nickel and dime people since they took over.

    -Water
    -Heat
    -Pet
    -Laundry (soon to be added due to new machines being purchased and are free).

  16. Hermes Says:

    Ridiculous. Parkinson and Parking? Rents that will stay LOW if LESS apartments are available??? Whatever.

  17. Sb Says:

    Does our neighborhood currently support rents like that? The construction they are proposing sounds…. cheap. Personally I’d like to see more amenities like places to eat, workout, etc. Did they address that? The parking issue is a real problem for quality of life, but I honestly don’t see it getting any better ANY place in a city that is desirable to live, scream about it all you want.

  18. goldenmonkey Says:

    But what about those people who work in King of Prussia?

    If only there was housing in KoP…

    But it’s no longer well under market value in the neighborhood I RENT in!

    If only there was inexpensive housing in another neighborhood.

    But I’m entitled to live in this neighborhood forever even though I never invested!

    Yeah, about that…

  19. Didi Says:

    Transit in our neighborhood is great if you work normal office hours in Center City. It is not so great if you work second or third shift or somewhere not along the main corridors. Like our neighbors who are visiting nurses, restaurant employees, bus mechanics, etc..

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