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Zoning news: Apple Lofts approved, liquor store denied – for now

Posted on 19 April 2012 by Mike Lyons

The Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) recently acted on two disputed West Philly development proposals. The ZBA approved a developer’s proposal to turn the long-empty Apple Lofts Storage building at 780 S. 52nd St. into a 112-unit apartment complex. But it denied the proposal to convert the adult video store near 43rd and Chestnut into a state Wine and Spirits Shoppe.

The Apple Lofts project, which required a rezoning from industrial to residential, garnered wide support from many residents and businesses nearby. Dozens of letters in support of the project, proposed by Iron Stone Strategic Capital Partners, came into the ZBA. Those in favor included the Cedar Park Neighbors Association and community radio station WPEB. That support outweighed the opposition, which was orchestrated by the Community Achievement Association (CAA). The CAA, as the City Paper recently reported, is essentially one person – West Philly resident Shawn Kelly.

Kelly submitted a thick file of petitions and community meeting minutes to the ZBA. Concerns included an increase in surrounding residents’ property taxes and the environmental hazards, including the disruption of toxic soil at the site.

videoMeanwhile, the ZBA denied the proposal to convert Risque Video (pictured), the largest storefront in a strip mall at 43rd and Chestnut, into an “upscale” liquor store. Many West Philly residents supported the proposal because of the closing of a Wine and Spirits Shoppe at 4049 Market Street earlier this year. That closure has put considerable customer pressure on the remaining local shop near 49th and Baltimore.

The Spruce Hill Community Association last month tentatively supported the proposal with the stipulation that the 5,000-square-foot space be converted to an “upscale” store.

But many Muslim residents who live near the location oppose the proposal. The plaza also includes a halal restaurant and butcher shop. The Masjid al-Jamia mosque is a block away on 43rd and Walnut.

This is not the first time the ZBA has rejected a plan for a liquor store in the area. In 2007 the ZBA rejected an application for a liquor store near 43rd and Walnut – across the street from Masjid al-Jamia – after vocal opposition from Muslim residents.

But this one might not be over. The ZBA is currently reconsidering the denial after an appeal.


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Post Bros. buy Apple Storage, plan 153-unit apartment building

Posted on 27 November 2017 by Mike Lyons

Former Apple Storage facility at 780 S. 52nd St (Google Street View image).

The real estate development firm Post Brothers has bought the long vacant Apple Storage facility on South 52nd Street and plans to build a 153-unit residential building. reported that the Post Brothers, which has acquired several buildings in recent years including The Netherlands at 4300 Chestnut, Hamilton Court at 3800 Chestnut, and Garden Court Plaza, paid $2.4 million for the hulking shell at 780 S. 52nd St., a couple blocks south of Baltimore Avenue. That price reflects the fact that the zoning approval had already been granted in 2012 for “Apple Lofts,” a residential housing proposal that drew mostly praise but prompted discussions about gentrification.

A zoning permit approved last week expanded the proposed project from 112 to 153 units and commercial space. The original zoning permit also includes 92 “accessory” parking spaces.  Continue Reading

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After all the drama, Apple Storage building back on the market

Posted on 12 October 2012 by Mike Lyons


An “Available” sign now hangs on the Apple Storage building, again bringing into question the building’s future. (Photo by Mike Lyons)

Months of neighborhood drama accompanied the sale and re-zoning of the Apple Storage building to a developer who pledged to turn the hulking shell near 52nd and Baltimore into apartments. Now, six months after the plan won zoning approval, the building is back on the market.

Real estate developer Iron Stone proposed to convert the seven-story warehouse into 112 studio, one- and two bedroom apartments and retail space. The neighborhood group Cedar Park Neighbors, many business owners along Baltimore Avenue and Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell supported the project. Meetings were held with neighbors who live near the building and feared their property taxes would increase as a result of the development. Iron Stone successfully navigated the often tricky zoning process.

Now the project appears to be on hold indefinitely. Continue Reading

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Support builds for 52nd Street Lofts project

Posted on 21 February 2012 by Mike Lyons

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The Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) is awaiting an opinion from Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell’s office before it decides whether to allow a city developer to convert the old Apple Storage building on 52nd Street near Hadfield Street to more than 100 loft apartments.

The proposed development has become a potential hotspot of gentrification along 52nd Street, although the feedback that the ZBA has received so far has been overwhelmingly positive.

The property investment firm Iron Stone, which has developed high-end apartments elsewhere in the city, proposes to convert the commercial building into 112 loft-style apartments. The plan also includes 2,000 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor and 92 parking spaces in the rear of the building. The building is currently designated as industrial and Iron Stone is seeking a residential zoning classification.

The community organization Cedar Park Neighbors has posted an online petition aimed at convincing Blackwell to support the project.

The project’s ZBA file contains more than 30 letters in support of the project from nearby homeowners and businesses.

Homeowner Cheshire Augusta, who lives two blocks from the project on 51st Street, wrote the ZBA:

“My family and I would be delighted to see growth at the west end of the 50th Street to 52nd Street section of the Baltimore Avenue corridor. So exciting!”

Renee McBride-Williams, an executive producer at the West Philadelphia community radio station WPEB 88.1, wrote that replacing the “dreary, unsafe, abandoned building” would “improve the quality of life in our community.”

Other letters of support came from community leaders, block captains and business owners.

The most vocal opponent of the project has been Shawn Kelly of the Community Achievement Association, who has argued that the building should retain its industrial designation and that businesses that could provide needed jobs in the neighborhood should be sought to fill it. He also voiced concern about the availability of affordable or Section 8 housing if the project goes through.

As a private investor that is not requesting government funds, Iron Stone is under no obligation to provide subsidized housing.

But positive feedback about the projects have far outweighed detractors.

Seth Budick, a block captain on the 1000 block of S. 50th Street, argued in a letter to the ZBA that the project “would inject new life onto that street, creating a livelier and safer environment for the entire neighborhood by putting people back on the street and eyes in the windows.”


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