Strong support for ‘5050 Baltimore’ at Cedar Park zoning meeting on Tuesday

October 24, 2018

Developer Ryan Spak, left, discusses “5050 Baltimore” during a zoning meeting at the Calvary Center last night (Photo by West Philly Local).

A 12-unit residential building with ground-floor commercial that includes below-market units proposed for the corner of 51st and Baltimore drew overwhelming support during a Cedar Park Neighbors zoning meeting last night.

Proposed by West Philly-based developer Ryan Spak, “5050 Baltimore” would be a three-story building built on three oddly shaped lots at the triangular corner of 51st and Baltimore. The project needs zoning variances for an additional two residential units. Ten units is allowed by right. The project also needs a variance for a “group practitioner” – a mental health counseling non-profit – which is one of the tenants for the proposed commercial space. 

“We want this building to be more than just an apartment building that gets thrown up in the neighborhood,” Spak told about 45 people gathered at the Calvary Center last night.

The project will take advantage of the city’s newly passed inclusionary zoning legislation, which includes zoning incentives to developers who include units for well below market-rate rents. So instead of seven units allowed, Spak can build 10 units if he includes moderately priced housing. Spak proposes two units, including one handicap-accessible apartment, at about half the market rate for the area. The rent for the ADA accessible apartment, a 525-square-foot one-bedroom, is proposed at $787 per month.

The proposed building includes 10 one-bedroom apartments that range from $787 per month to $1,125 per month and a pair of two-bedrooms priced at $1,500 each.

The project will include no public money or tax credits. Spak describes the affordable units as “self-subsidized.”

“We can use the density to supplement rents on some of the units,” Spak said, explaining his request for the variance for two additional apartments. “The assistance we are getting is the density.”

The building would include ground-floor commercial space along its entire length on Baltimore Avenue. The mental health services firm would include a marriage counselor and other counseling. Baby Wordplay, a combined bookstore and storytelling space with locations in the Graduate Hospital and Fairmount neighborhoods, is proposed for the other space.

The Cedar Park Neighbors zoning committee will make a recommendation to the Zoning Board of Adjustment, which will hold a full hearing.


24 Comments For This Post

  1. live on the block Says:

    Yeah, strong support from people who live nowhere near the proposed building in question. i was there, I voted no, and the “yes” votes weren’t people from our block.

    Would love to see all those Yes folks get a nice little 12 apartment building on their block and see their opinions shift like the wind.

    Just keep it up people, soon we’ll be living the northern liberties dream.

  2. juleebee Says:

    I agree with ‘I live on the block’ — those rent prices are absolutely ridiculous high, and at 51st street, how is that “well under market”? This wasn’t reported correctly or just a clique of ‘supporters’ came out not really from the area. I would have voted NO because I have lived near/in Cedar Park area for over 7 years and have struggled with a ridiculous rent situation with unresponsive landlord inside of a sinking infested building, everything broken and leaking at 47th – $1,390 because the landlords only communicates getting a check for what he demands is a fair price, so I can’t afford moving costs, have to stay on food stamps like never before in my life and didn’t have hot water for months. And adding the mental health facility among other things sounds like white people trying to fix/conquer/takeover what they see as ghetto but just adding insult to injury. Add a homey diner and green space, and remember if your 2 bedroom doesn’t have a backyard or porch, you better lower your damn building prices in this turf. I’m white and saying this, developers need to stop being so inconsiderate.

  3. West Philly Says:

    @juleebee Well it is ghettoish at 51st and Baltimore. I think anything nice would be an improvement. Oh, blame it on the white people. That’s gotten old long ago.

  4. WTF Says:

    @the previous poster “westphilly”…what an insensitive jerk. “Ghettoish” at 51st?

    This is beyond ignorant. This is exactly why I wish this project would have been voted down. You people who think “oh this new project is good because it will clean up a neighborhood” have no understanding of the place you think you’re helping.

    This is so gross and sad. These developers are so ignorant to how they seem and appear, even when they mean well.

    I believe the DEVELOPER ‘means’ well. But meanings are no defense of ignorance.

    Just because you CAN build something doesnt mean you SHOULD.

    The people that voted in favor of this are probably well meaning, but totally ignorant. Please take your apartment buildings and get out of west philly. A house or two…ok. This apartment crap has got to go.

    I live across the street from where this guy says he’s gonna build and I want to cry. These people and their insistence that “they know whats best for us”.

  5. West Philly Says:

    @ WTF. No intention to be insensitive. Born and raised in N. Philly I think I know what ghetto is. 51st & Baltimore not as bad as areas of N. Philly so ghettoish fits. Ghetto begins further west. I understand you’d rather have a house or two. I’m not sure if that’s an option in a city if exorbitant taxes and overpriced unions

  6. John Says:

    @juleebee, if you are paying $1,390 for an unmaintained place run by a slumlord and they want to charge $1,125 for new, presumably modern one bedroom, I don’t understand your comment that it isn’t undermarket.

    From what I know of the area, that sounds pretty reasonable for a newly built place.

  7. Larry Jones Says:

    Oh shut up with this “I’m offended” stuff!

  8. Frmr cedar park Says:

    To the previous commenters who are opposed to the development, developers don’t decide what counts as “market rate;” the market does. Rents like these for new construction in any other desirable neighborhood would be unheard of. And yes, cedar park is desirable. I lived two blocks away from this intersection until very recently.

    Also, I fail to see how having apartments here is any worse than an empty lot? The increased density means that more people who want to live here can live here without your slumlord landlord raising the rent in order to force you to move out of your infested dump so they can turn the place into apartments and charge more.

  9. bw Says:

    interesting. so by right (no variances) would be 10 full-on market rate units and replacing the group practioner with something compliant with zoning, which could very well just be an empty retail space.

    would that be worse than what is proposed?

    plenty of frustrations above are valid and unless you buy the land, you are stuck between a rock and hard place.

  10. Ghetto Person Says:

    People who call 51st and Baltimore “ghetto” need to get out of West Philly.

    I think the people opposed are opposed mainly to more crowding on the trollies and parking. That’s pretty valid. Some people at the meeting were raising these valid points. Anyone who says they would not be opposed to 12-24 new people on their block is lying, when you consider this point.

    Bottom line is that it sucks that developers are moving into west philly. they dont seem to know that they’re harming the very place they claim to be so charmed with. bye bye charm, hello sterile apartments that dont match the archetecture and appearance of teh neighborhood. You can dress up apartments as much as you want but they arent west philly archetecture. I feel for these people who are being encroached upon.

  11. just a bit farther west Says:

    Things I like – wheel chair accessible apartment (but just one *sigh*)

    Things that make me lol – below market price. Yeah, if you’re talking a block east and over. But not there yet. That’s probablya smidge over market. But that’s why they chose to have the meeting at Calvary, instead of the church a across the street or the daycare a block west, both of which have hosted zoning meetings in the past.

    Especially with the Apple building, this area is going to need a parking garage in the area. There’s enough parking for the occupancy expected if you follow the zoning laws, but not really as much more as they’re talking.

    Also they aren’t talking about greening the area any, which is the main reason you feel a stark transition once you cross 50th. The empty lots are the green space and even with the new construction, it’s going to feel harder and less comfortable without street plantings, a back yard space, or anything to soften the landscape.

  12. goldenmonkey Says:

    Now where am I going to get held up at gunpoint at 10pm on a Wednesday?

    Curse you developers…West Philly needs to be stuck in the mid-80’s crack epidemic where I could throw my garbage all over the street and not pay taxes. Philly kids don’t deserve our tax dollars, right y’all? Better to have moldering homes with a broken down car in the abandoned lot, than safe streets and good schools.

  13. West Philly Says:

    @ Ghetto Person. Funny. I’ll drive by again to see if boarded up buildings, trash-strewn streets, empty lots, and panhandlers with black plastic beer bags are gone. Sorry, you don’t get to decide who stays in West Phy.

  14. Bill H Says:

    >>> strong support from people who live nowhere near the proposed building in question

    We live two blocks south on 51st and voted for it. People good. More people please.

    We’re not worried about parking. Literally dozens of new units have opened up all around us over the last ten years, and parking is only modestly more difficult than it used to be. And in general I’d rather live in a place full of people where I might have to walk a block after parking, than live in a place full of vacant lots where I can always park in front of my house.

    And no, we’re not worried about Apple Lofts and its 90-plus parking spots.

  15. goldenmonkey Says:

    Thank you for being a voice of reason.

  16. Balt Says:

    Apple lofts will have 140ish apartments and only 60ish parking spaces

  17. Bill H Says:

    >>> Thank you for being a voice of reason.

    If you’re speaking to me, don’t think for a second that I don’t frequently find you grossly offensive.

  18. goldenmonkey Says:

    Don’t worry, I don’t think about people like you. You’re like a broken clock that’s right twice a day. Feel free to go back to you nonsensical blathering.

  19. Rian Allison Franks Says:

    I have grown up in this neighborhood and I don’t think we need any more development that will push us that grew up here out. It’s funny how people who have only lived here for a few years swear they know what’s best for Philadelphia. Has anyone looked at the average wage for your average Philadelphian? Where are we going to park, where are we going to live without people feeling as if they don’t belong or not welcomed in the neighborhood they call home. And as for West Philly please have a seat. As a matter of fact, have several. You are a part of the problem.

  20. CR Says:

    As I was led to believe at the meeting, the low income units aren’t guaranteed to remain low income beyond the developer’s five year financing (and even that is “in the works”). Unless I’m missing something, after those five years, the units can rise to market rents. In fact, the extra unit variance will give him more of an incentive to sell earlier since a new owner would have no legal obligation to keep the units affordable.

    The developer could put the income level restrictions in the deed if he really wanted to keep the affordable units, well, affordable (as defined by the city’s use of HUD’s AMI numbers). When the speaker pushed him on this, he balked about interest rate risk, and even though a lawyer could draft language to protect him from that, he didn’t budge.

    Development never pleases everyone but my impression is that with the extra unit variance the community will allow extra units without adequate resources.

    At the meeting, we were told the ZBA hearing would be at 2pm on the 7th (this Wednesday) if anyone is interested in voicing their concerns beyond this flame thread. And I would think that unfocused anti-development / anti-gentrification arguments will only help the developer appear more magnanimous. He certainly appeared to benefit from them in the vote at the meeting. He doesn’t need approval to build here. He needs approval for extra units and for the group practitioner zoning.

    This building appears to be meant to win the developer some brownie points, but it’s up to us to hold him to his word and make his contribution to the community, specifically affordable housing, substantive, especially if he’s asking us to allow him to cram in more units and more profit at our expense.

  21. WD Says:

    Too high rents, both “the market decides” ones and the supposedly affordable ones, like this are why we need rent control in Philly (and everywhere). Every time a developer builds some dumb looking yuppie magnet many people try to pressure and fight them in various ways, and that’s great, but it often doesn’t work because the whole field is tilted in their favor. Like a previous commenter said if you don’t own the land you’re stuck.

    We need to get rent control laws in place and enforced that will stop developers and landlords from having all of the power just because they are property owners.

  22. Bill H Says:

    >> Don’t worry, I don’t think about people like you

    ha ha ha you thought you made a friend but now you’re saaaaaad

  23. Far McKOn Says:

    Cars are the fat that clogs the arteries of cites. We need denser cities. We need more high density around transit. We need to stop wasting money to park $5-$50K piles of rubber and metal in public places for 18 out of 24 hours a day to slowly rot.

    US cities are so bad, partially because we keep gutting public options (that the rest of the 1st world countries have) due to some weird obsession/madness that private solutions are always the best solutions, and profit is the only/best human motivation.

    At a meta-level, we need to stop gutting public options (healthcare, schools, transit, elder/youth care) that work so well and so cheaply in **so many other countries**, due to our blindly following a broken ‘Private Ownership is the only way to organize’ mentality.

  24. Frank Heimer Says:

    Their zoning variance was granted.

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