The firm behind the proposed residential housing project at 43rd and Baltimore will soon begin to seek community input, including the launch of a forum-like website, according to a letter from the chair of the Spruce Hill Community Association zoning committee.
We first reported on the 92-unit residential complex proposed for the vacant lot at the corner of 43rd Street and Baltimore Avenue, across from Clark Park, a month ago. Since publishing the story, a lively discussion on what this development would mean for West Philly took off, with a number of residents emailing concerns to Barry Grossbach, chair of the Spruce Hill Zoning Committee. Grossbach recently addressed those questions in a statement released by the Spruce Hill Community Association.
“Here is what we know. The property owners sought, and were given, a ‘conditional’ zoning permit subject to design committee approval by City Planning,” writes Grossbach. “The site, currently zoned Rm1 under the new code, does not require any parking as part of any multifamily development. This is particularly important to understand given the emails insisting that Spruce Hill not allow this lack of parking to stand. The plans submitted by the owners meet the requirements of the code under Rm1 zoning, and lamenting the lack of parking will not address those concerns in a meaningful way. A ‘conditional’ permit is good for one year, and the clock does not start ticking on any time schedule until the owners seek to change ‘conditional’ to ‘permanent.’”
According to Grossbach’s statement, before seeking that change, the property owner, Clarkmore LP, controlled by Thylan Associates, has enlisted the help of U3 Ventures, a local real estate advisory and development firm, to engage the community in fostering alternative design plans. The process, writes Grossbach, will include a series of insightful roundtables with residents, and the creation of 4224Baltimore.com (which is not yet up and running), a website dedicated to the project news and information. The plan is for the website to feature an online discussion forum moderated by “Spruce Hill community members” where residents can express qualms about issues ranging from “building size to parking concerns,” according to Grossbach’s letter. The development team will not edit the forum’s content, but will participate in the discussion.
The development group will also have a table at the Spruce Hill Community Association May Fair on May 11.
“Many of us in Spruce Hill have looked at 43rd and Baltimore with a mixture of apprehension and hope over these ‘vacant’ years—expecting that something would surface as a development scheme and praying silently that we would not only survive it but applaud it,” writes Grossbach. “We have a unique opportunity here…We have the chance to think big and bold and, hopefully, find that sweet spot in shaping development for a site that both community members and property owners applaud without reservation.”
– Annamarya Scaccia