Category Archives: Development

Redevelopment of Germantown’s YWCA about more than just one building

The shuttered YWCA.

The shuttered YWCA.

UPDATED: 4:30 PM February 17, 2015

Local media turned it’s attention to development in Northwest Philadelphia’s Germantown neighborhood this week as journalists reported on the fate of the historic YWCA building. Set on the 5800 block of Germantown Avenue, the building frames the northern side of leafy Vernon Park and fronts the commercial corridor. The week’s tales of woe, much of which centered on whether the building would face demolition or redevelopment, left me feeling very sad about Germantown as a neighborhood and place I call home, frustrated but not at a loss for words.

Here’s my letter to The Inquirer in response to architecture critic Inga Saffron’s take in her Changing Skyline column, published in the Tuesday, February 17th Opinion section (glad it’s back to two pages of commentary):

Promising neighborhood deserves better

TEXT: When it comes to planning and development, the Germantown community is feeling its way through the dark (“Without Y, Germantown loses part of its past,” Feb. 13). Where, for starters, is the City Planning Commission’s district plan for Germantown?

Whatever happens with the neighborhood’s vacant YWCA will affect its central park, its commercial corridor, and the future development of Germantown in a big way.

I know Germantown has what it takes. And I’m looking for change I can believe in, not change I’m mildly OK with. But if the wave of development sweeping the neighborhood now doesn’t meet my expectations, I will, with a heavy heart, look for a new place to live, work, and play.

I have already invested (and sacrificed) years making a positive difference on my own block, only to be crushed by the weight of insurmountable problems – poverty, ever more diminished city services, and the lack of oversight or feigned interest of the city agencies handling inspections and public housing.

I want neighborhood reinvestment that excites me. I’m young. I’m civically engaged. But I’m burning out fast. And I could use a good shot of espresso at a café in my very own neighborhood, as well as the ability to stop at a convenience store that isn’t reminding me over a loudspeaker every minute that I’m on camera.

We should have opportunities and we should have options to shape a grand vision for Germantown.

Emaleigh Doley, Philadelphia, www.rocklandstreet.com

The Germantown YWCA serves as a border for Vernon Park and as a backdrop to the Pastorius Memorial. (Credit: The Philadelphia Inquirer / Rachel Wisniewski)

The Germantown YWCA serves as a border for Vernon Park and as a backdrop to the Pastorius Memorial. (Credit: The Philadelphia Inquirer / Rachel Wisniewski)

The Philadelphia Inquirer ads to its stock photography collection of developer Ken Weinstein, here outside of the Germantown YWCA. (Credit: The Philadelphia Inquirer / Rachel Wisniewski)

The Philadelphia Inquirer ads to its stock photography collection of developer Ken Weinstein, here outside of the Germantown YWCA. (Credit: The Philadelphia Inquirer / Rachel Wisniewski)

big-news-clipart-200x243In the news

1. The Philadelphia Inquirer‘s architecture critic Inga Saffron pens an ode to the old building and brings the hammer down on councilmanic prerogative: Changing Skyline: Political battle could topple Germantown Y.

2. Earlier in the week, The Inquirer‘s city hall reporter Claudia Vargas captured Councilwoman Cindy Bass’ point of view: What’s to become of the old Germantown YWCA? The article notes the Councilwoman doesn’t want more subsidized housing at this location on Germantown Avenue. Bass says that given Germantown’s potential, time is needed to find the right plan for the old Y. “Land in Germantown, I believe, is becoming more and more valuable as we speak.”

3. Flying Kite Media offered a recap of the January 22, 2015 community meeting about the fate of the YWCA building, convened by Germantown United CDC.

4. Here on The W Rockland Street Project blog, my top 5 questions about the YWCA redevelopment leading up to the January 22 meeting.

5. A range of opinion and community conversation on Changing Germantown: facebook.com/groups/ChangingGermantown

Map view

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Is the historic YWCA building on Germantown Avenue really going to be demolished?

If you’re a resident of Germantown, by now you’ve likely heard the news that the former-YWCA building at 5820-24 Germantown Avenue has been threatened with the wrecking ball. You probably also have A LOT of questions about that.

Germantown United CDC (GU) has convened an emergency community meeting on Thursday, January 22 at 6:30 PM to discuss the fate of the historic building, which sits next to Vernon Park on Germantown Avenue and is part of a cluster of large vacancies on the corridor, including Germantown Town Hall and Germantown High School.

Right now, the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority (PRA) owns the YWCA. In September 2014, the PRA put out a Request for Proposals (RFP) for competitive bids from developers to purchase and rehab the building. You can download the RFP (PDF) and browse other PRA materials in detail at phila.gov/pra.

Apparently only one proposal was submitted (oy! what’s the proposal?) and while the PRA likes the proposed development (what’s it like?) they’re having a hard time moving it forward (how come?) so now the PRA might tear the building down if there is no traction (really? why?).

Before I freak out about the building getting demolished or decide to advocate for a project I know nothing about, I plan on attending this meeting on the 22nd and think you should too!

Here are my five questions I’m hoping to get answered:

1. So… What’s been proposed exactly? According to the email below from GU, Mission First Housing Group is the sole developer, and Ken Weinstein of Philly Office Retail and Center in the Park are partners. What do they want to do and how will the existing business corridor and greater Germantown benefit?

2. What is stopping the Redevelopment Authority from accepting the proposal? Generally speaking, if the PRA has a proposal they like, what is the process for moving a proposal forward?

3. I heard Councilwoman Cindy Bass does not support the proposal but no one will say why. Why not? I’d like to hear from everyone at the table. (Actually, is there even a table? Who is ultimately the decision maker here?)

4. The Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority now says the YWCA might have to come down. What’s changed? And is this sudden threat of demolition an attempt to whip neighbors into a frenzy and force stakeholders and the Councilwoman to endorse the proposal, or is the building actually about to fall over? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

5. Back in February 2013 – before the PRA even foreclosed on the property – Ken Weinstein did an interview with Flying Kite Media discussing his vision for the YWCA. I’m confused about who is leading the charge. Please fill us in!

The shuttered YWCA on Germantown Avenue near Rittenhouse Street.

The shuttered YWCA on Germantown Avenue near Rittenhouse Street.

The YWCA building has an awesome history and should be preserved. One of my favorite activities growing up was jumping on the HUGE trampoline at the Y while waiting around for my sister – who was far better at gymnastics – to finish lessons. But forgive me for not immediately laying down in front of the building to save it from demolition. There are lots of crazy stories out there about people in power (who know better) using scare tactics to get what they want and how this unfolded doesn’t feel right. Remember that time the Philadelphia Housing Authority threatened to leave Germantown’s Queen Lane Apartments tower up (yes, up!) because of disagreements with residents? More recently, PRA executive director Brian Abernathy penned an obnoxious op-ed for the Inquirer blaming artist James Dupree for denying an ENTIRE neighborhood access to healthy food, all because the artist didn’t roll-over when the City attempted to seize his studio for a new supermarket. Yuck. Our local government sometimes does reprehensible stuff like this.

I gather there are issues with transparency on all sides. Come out to the meeting with an open mind and do your due diligence to get the facts if the revitalization of Germantown is an issue you care about. Germantown United CDC has confirmed that Ken Weinstein and representatives of Mission Housing First and Center in the Park will be in attendance to discuss the RFP they submitted to the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority. The PRA will also be in the house to talk about the status of the proposal and the condition of the building. Who else will be there? I dunno. Let’s find out!

via germantownunitedcdc.com

Germantown United CDC distributed the following statement via their website and listserve on January 15, 2015:

Join Us to Save the YWCA Building

Date: Thursday, January 22, 2015
Time: 6:30 PM – 8:00 PM; 11:45 PM (hearing begins promptly, GCCS is scheduled first)
Location: First United Methodist Church of Germantown (FUMCOG) at 6001 Germantown Avenue [directions]

“Germantown United CDC (“GU”) recently learned that the old YWCA building on Germantown Avenue, adjacent to Vernon Park, may be threatened with demolition.

Please join us and other community groups, including Germantown Community Connection, for a meeting at the First United Methodist Church of Germantown (“FUMCOG”) on January 22, 2015, 6:30pm, to hear about the threat to this significant historic centerpiece in Germantown’s “Town Center” and the proposal on the table that may save it.

Here’s what we know at this point:

The Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority (“PRA”) owns the Old YWCA after it foreclosed against Germantown Settlement four years ago. Last Fall (September 2014), the PRA put out a Request for Proposals for competitive bids from developers to purchase and rehabilitate the structure at 5820-24 Germantown Avenue. Given the historic nature and significance of the building, the RFP stated that the “City may be willing to subsidize masonry and structural improvements in an amount not to exceed $1,000,000.” Following the release of the RFP, a site visit was led by the PRA for interested developers to have an opportunity to tour the building. The site is in a significant state of disrepair resulting from eight plus years of vacancy, two fires, and multiple acts of vandalism. Despite considerable developer interest initially, only one developer submitted a proposal to the PRA.

A proposal by Mission First Housing Group, to acquire and develop 50 one bedroom senior apartments for low and moderate income older adults (62 and older), was submitted. While Mission First Housing Group will work closely with Philly Office Retail and Center in the Park, Mission First will be the sole developer of the site. Seniors will have access to on-site programming provided by Center in the Park. Philly Office Retail owns the remainder of the block along Germantown Avenue, up to West Rittenhouse Street, and plans to construct market rate residential and commercial uses, concurrently with this project. Mission First proposes utilizing Low Income Housing Tax Credit financing similar to what was used for the Presser-
Nugent properties on Johnson Street that served to save those buildings.

As Corridor Manager, GU feels obligated to convene a meeting of stakeholders to hear all the facts, to understand the existing proposal, and to create a community coalition to save the Old YWCA. At this point, the only proposal legitimately before the PRA, based on response to the competitive RFP process, is the one submitted by Mission First. GU supports a fair and open process that allows community voices to be heard without advocating for a specific proposal. Our goal is to save the YWCA from demolition and ensure that this Germantown gem is preserved and put to productive use. So, who is Mission First (we all know Center in the Park)? What is the proposal? Is this something our community should support? These questions – and any that you wish to raise – are welcome at the meeting on January 22nd 6:30pm at FUMCOG.

PLEASE HELP SAVE THIS SIGNIFICANT BUILDING FROM THE WRECKING BALL!!

PLEASE JOIN US TO DISCUSS AND DECIDE AS A COMMUNITY WHAT IS BEST FOR GERMANTOWN’S COMMERCIAL CORRIDOR.”

cg-facebook

Are you on Facebook?

The Changing Germantown Facebook group offers a broad view of development activity at play in and around Northwest Philadelphia’s Germantown neighborhood and insight into what community stakeholders are thinking. Members are invited to freely post photos, articles, comments and opinions related to urban planning and design, community development, and zoning issues in Germantown.

Join facebook.com/groups/ChangingGermantown.

Everything is December 8th! Germantown’s focus on revitalization continues

big-news-clipart-200x243December 8th marks an important day in the history of Germantown. No, there’s no historic battle. But what is on the calendar for this Monday is a slew of events concerning development and other neighborhood revitalization efforts coming to Germantown in the near future.

What’s on the agenda? The Emerald Isle, also known as Vernon Park, is in the early stages of a park redesign. The Women’s Community Revitalization Project has proposed 35 new affordable town homes on vacant woodsy land on Wister Street in East Germantown. We have a new school coming to the 140-year-old St. Peter’s Episcopal Church at Wayne Avenue and Harvey Street, originally designed by architects Frank Furness and George Wattson Hewitt. St. Peter’s is fast transforming itself into the Waldorf School of Philadelphia’s new campus. Also on the education front, the Germantown Community Charter School Coalition will present their plan for the reuse of Germantown High School before the School Reform Commission, complete with a busload of supportive Germantowners in tow. And much more.

Yes, December 8th, 2014 is a very important day for Germantown. Pick a meeting or presentation and go!
Photo by Jill Saull via Flying Kite

Photo by Germantown resident Jill Saull via Flying Kite

1. Germantown Community Charter School 

Time: 10:30 AM – 2 PM (bus trip); 11:45 PM (hearing begins promptly, GCCS is scheduled first)
Location: School District Of Philadelphia, 440 N Broad St, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19130

via facebook.com/GtownCharterCommunitySchool

The Charter School Application is in the approval stage. (Phase 1) We are scheduled for a (15) minute public hearing presentation to an audience before the SRC (School Reform Commission). We need ALL ALUMNI, FAMILY, FRIENDS, COMMUNITY AND SUPPORTERS AT THIS MEETING. RIDE the BUS on US: The bus leaves at 10:30 from the former Germantown High School at Germantown and High Sts. YOU MUST RSVP at GtownCharter@gmail.com TO CONFIRM A SEAT ON THE BUS YOUR NAME MUST BE ON THE LIST. You can also meet us there. Be part of the Sea of Green in support of the Germantown Community Charter School. Equally important they are accepting public testimony beginning at 3pm. We need as many people as possible and representatives of our partner organizations to give their words of support. To sign up to speak you need to call: 215-400-4010.

Read more: District will hear Germantown Community Charter School Coalition’s pitch on Monday | NewsWorksWHYY 2014

2. Friends of Vernon Parkvp

Time: 6 – 7:30 PM
Location: Center in the Park, 5818 Germantown Ave, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19144

via facebook.com/FriendsofVernonPark

Dear Friends and Neighbors of Vernon Park, Come join us and see the latest design for the Master Plan for Vernon Park from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society design team. This is an exciting time and some parts of the plan are already underway. Please come promptly so we can have a good block of time for the presentation and questions. If you haven’t been to our meetings before, please note you need to use the back entrance to the Center in the Park from the parking lot off Rittenhouse Street and ring the bell at the door.

Contact: info@friendsofvernonpark.org

3. RCO Meeting to discuss proposed Nicole Hines Townhomes development at 417 E Wister Street by Women’s Community Revitalization Project

Time: 6 PM
Location: Wayne Junction Campus, 4809 Germantown Ave, Philadelphia PA 19144
Hosted by: Joint Registered Community Organization meeting hosted by Wakefield 49ers Community Development and Improvement Association RCO

via Women’s Community Revitalization Project

Rendering of Nicole Hines Townhouse development courtesy of Women's Community Revitalization Project

Rendering of Nicole Hines Townhomes courtesy of Women’s Community Revitalization Project

Zoning Notice

Re: 417 E Wister Street (417, 423, 431, 443, 445 E Wister St and 5120 Rufe St)

Dear Registered Community Organization or Property Owner:

The Zoning Board of Adjustments has continued this hearing. You are hereby notified of the following PUBLIC HEARING to be held by the City of Philadelphia Zoning Board of Adjustment on the issue described below:

Public Hearing Date: December 17, 2014

Public Hearing Time: 2 PM

Location: 1515 Arch St, 18th Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19102

Property Description: The property is vacant land located on the block bounded by Wister, Rufe, and Collom Streets, less than one block away from the Wister Station along the SEPTA Regional Rail Line. The address is 417 E. Wister (along with 423, 431, 443, 445 E. Wister St. and 5120 Rufe St.). The nearest cross street is Wister and Rufe. The property is located in a RSA-2 zoning district.

Project Description: The purpose of the application is to build 35 homes, thirty five parking spaces and one community space. This project will also relocate lot lines from 6 existing lots to create one lot. To complete this development we are
seeking the following variances:

  • To build 35 residences on one lot in a zone that allows 1 residence per lot
  • To build a community space for residents of the development
  • To have both the community space and the homes in the same district
  • To build 13 separate structures where no more than one is allowed

Read more and view additional photos and renderings: Women’s Community Revitalization Project planning to build 35 affordable houses in East Germantown

Contacts: Email paylesworth@wcrpphila.org if you would like a copy of the zoning application.
Wakefield 49ers – Rosalind McKelvey, 215-275-6853, roz.mckelvey@gmail.com

Waldorf-School4. The Waldorf School of Philadelphia Town Hall Meeting

Time: 7 PM
Location: 7500 Germantown Ave (School Auditorium, 3rd floor, Eagles II), Philadelphia PA 19119

via facebook.com/PhillyWaldorf

Join The Waldorf School of Philadelphia Leadership Team and members of the Board of Trustees for a community-wide Town Hall meeting. We will provide a preliminary overview of our relocation plans and offer an opportunity to ask questions and share concerns. Members of the current Waldorf community and the wider Germantown community are all invited. Bring friends, neighbors, grandparents, prospective families – all are welcome! If you cannot attend but have a question you can forward your questions to Kerry Hoffman at schoolchair@phillywaldorf.com.

Agenda:

  • Overview of project, history of how and why we are moving.
  • Campus buildings and geographic layout of classrooms
  • Transportation and parking
  • Security
  • Potential Community Outreach
  • Timeline highlights: move, weekend celebration, graduation, summer camp
  • Fundraising
  • Tour dates and next town hall
  • Q and A

Read more: Former church in Germantown to house school | The Philadelphia Inquirer 2013.07.18

penn-knox5. Penn Knox Neighborhood Association Monthly Meeting

Time: 7 – 9 PM
Location: Pennsylvania School for the Deaf, 143 W Coulter Street, Philadelphia PA 19144

via PKNA Chair Julie Baranauskas

Agenda: Updates on the conservancy effort of 5328 Wayne Avenue (David Gilfillan); progress report on the Growbot sculpture at the Penn Street community garden (Birdie Busch) and the Penn Knox Community Information Board at Maplewood Mall; safety report from the working committee; annual pot luck and fundraising auction.

Save the date: January 12, 2015 next PKNA monthly meeting on the 2nd Monday of the month.

trees_maplewood_mall_aine_doley

6. City Council Hearing on Trees: Resolution No. 140668 

Time: 12 PM
Location: Room 402, City Hall, Philadelphia

via Office of 8th District Councilwoman Cindy Bass

In September, we introduced a resolution calling for a hearing regarding the current state of park and street trees and their continued maintenance. The hearing has been rescheduled for Monday December 8, 2014 at 12 PM.

Tree Germantown is a big supporter of this bill! Learn more about it and support this effort.

Read more: Download a PDF of the Trees Hearing Resolution

cg-facebook

Are you on Facebook?

The Changing Germantown Facebook group was created in response to a noticeable uptick in development activity in the Northwest and few public forums for residents to freely discuss and access such information. This group offers a space for focused conversation on such issues. Members are invited to freely post photos, articles, comments and opinions related to urban planning and design, community development, and zoning issues in and around Northwest Philadelphia’s Germantown neighborhood. The group offers a broad view of current development activity at play in the neighborhood and insight into what neighborhood stakeholders are thinking.

Join facebook.com/groups/ChangingGermantown.

Women’s Community Revitalization Project plans to build 35 affordable houses in East Germantown

Women’s Community Revitalization Project (WCRP) has proposed building 35 new affordable town homes on vacant woodsy land in East Germantown. 417 E Wister is located across from the Woodford Tennis Club. Though just a few blocks off of Germantown Avenue, this stretch of Wister is fairly desolate and a regular illegal dump site.

Rendering of Nicole Hines Townhouse development courtesy of Women's Community Revitalization Project

Rendering of Nicole Hines Townhouse development courtesy of Women’s Community Revitalization Project

Women’s Community Revitalization Project is required to discuss the development at a public meeting with community members and the Registered Community Organizations (RCOs) with geographic boundaries that include the property. On Monday, December 8, 2014 (see the notice) the Wakefield 49ers Community Development and Improvement Association will host the RCO meeting in advance of the WCRP’s December 17 hearing before the Zoning Board of Adjustments.

If you’re interested in participating in the conversation about this development and the revitalization of East Germantown, please attend! 

Informational materials provided by WCRP are included below, along with Google map satellite imagery of the area.

WCRP_ZoningPlan_Illus_11-06-14

WCRP_Nicole Hines townhomes fact sheet

WCRP_Tenant Selection Process 11-14

New Parking Lot Coming to Germantown Avenue Commercial Corridor

The 5300 block of Germantown Avenue will soon be home to a new 19-space surface parking lot at the corner of W Penn Street, joining two existing lots that front the commercial corridor within a single block. The grassy property is owned by developer Ken Weinstein, who is also renovating the six story building across the street at 5301 Germantown Avenue.

There is much possibility in Philadelphia’s vacant land, so the idea of yet another private lot is nothing short of a buzzkill to this stretch of the corridor, which is showing a glint of possibility marked by new businesses, new construction projects and renovations.

While a parking lot may not sound very exciting, Weinstein’s development in its entirety remains one of the most significant along the corridor in years. It has however proved difficult to get much information about.

Future surface parking lot on the 5300 block of Germantown Ave at E Penn St, looking towards 5301 Germantown Ave.

Future surface parking lot on the 5300 block of Germantown Ave at Penn St, looking towards the Hosley Temple Church and 5301 Germantown Ave.

In the summer, a group of concerned Germantown residents (myself included) and business owners frustrated by a lack of transparency reached out to the Department of Licenses and Inspections and various other agencies of the city with questions about the development process and potential impact on the neighborhood.

The primary concern is what appears to be the subversion of the city’s zoning process which in effect has prevented public notifications about the nature of the building use, stifling dialogue and community input. L&I’s decision-making overlooks many principles of comprehensive planning set forth in the new zoning code.

Site of the forthcoming parking lot 5300 block of Germantown Ave at W Penn St

Site of the forthcoming parking lot 5300 block of Germantown Ave at W Penn St

The parking lot and the six story building sit on a largely historic stretch of Germantown Avenue at opposite corners of Penn Street just one block away from Germantown Friends School, Cunningham Piano, and Grumblethorpe. A misleading sign posted on the building facade advertises it will house new market rate apartments and a cafe/restaurant space. The primary use of the building however is a 100-bed residential shelter that will serve more than 600 people each year. When pressed for more information about the additional use, Ken Weinstein has stated that he cannot legally discuss it. The building has been partially occupied since July and the commercial space is nearly complete and seeking a tenant. The listing from Philly Office Retail says “DRIVE BY TO SEE THE ACTION!!!” Spread the word…

The parking lot, which is not yet under construction, will be located on the contiguous parcels of land at 5322, 5324 and 5326-28 Germantown Avenue at W Penn Street, across the street from the building under discussion. The two other large private lots on the block serve Germantown Friends School and St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. Hosley Temple Church and the new Around The Clock Home Health Care office (currently under construction) have wide driveway entrances on the Avenue and private parking lots tucked away behind their buildings. The entire block has free on-street parking throughout. Which begs the question – how many parking lots are too many for one block of Germantown Avenue? Surface lots on city blocks create distance between destinations and add little to the streetscape. This dead space no doubt impacts the surrounding business corridor and overall pedestrian experience. A walk along the neighboring 5400 or 5200 blocks of Germantown Avenue tell a different story.

5300 Block of Germantown Ave - Google Maps - Lots

“Yay, surface parking,” said nobody ever.@dragonballyee via Twitter. Note, map satellite image does not show the new construction between Hosley Temple Church and the Germantown Friends School parking lot on the east side of Germantown Avenue.

News of the parking lot is but one conundrum. If you’re anything like me, you probably have a lot more questions about how each component of the 5301 Germantown Avenue development will fit together. But good luck getting your questions answered.

In the interest of a more transparent process, included below is our most recent correspondence about the development with L&I.

Germantowners should have a voice in the rebuilding of our neighborhood and the right to know and ask questions about new developments that impact where we live, work and play – for better or worse.

An informed citizenry is an asset to the revitalization of Germantown.

Read more

What’s Happening at 5301 Germantown Avenue?

5301 Germantown Ave

5301 Germantown Avenue

A group of Germantown residents, business owners, and property owners have submitted a letter of inquiry to L&I Commissioner Carlton Williams calling for a review of the commercial and residential development at 5301 Germantown Avenue.

In the letter, of which I am a co-signer, the group questions the process through which zoning was obtained and whether or not the project is consistent with the goals of developing mixed-use commercial districts.

At six stories (that’s soaring in Germantown), the building sits on a largely historic stretch of Germantown Avenue below Chelten Avenue and is perhaps the biggest non-commercial redevelopment in years. Yet significant aspects of the project remain shrouded in secrecy.

As advertised on a sign posted to the building facade, 5301 Germantown Avenue is said to feature a 1,600 sq ft cafe or restaurant space on the ground floor and 11 market rate apartments (one and two-bedroom units). The primary use of the building however is reputed to be a 100-bed residential shelter, managed by an unnamed non-profit. The developer, Ken Weinstein of Philly Office Retail, has stated publicly at several community meetings that he cannot legally disclose the name of the non-profit tenant or the nature of the additional residential use. This has baffled residents living nearby, generating unnecessary confusion about the development. The distrust and frustration could no doubt have been mitigated by a more transparent development process.

Interestingly, many local news publications have covered the renovation at 5301 and the community’s response, including WHYY’s NewsWorks (most recently here, here, and here), The Philadelphia Tribune, and The Independent Voice. None of the stories from the press however explore the legality of the unnamed use, or how exactly the developer secured the required zoning, bypassing public disclosures, the Zoning Board of Adjustment, and the Registered Community Organization review process.

For full disclosure, the text of the aforementioned email and enclosures sent to Commissioner Williams and copied to a list of public leaders and officials, follows below in it’s entirety.

Read more

Council control of development? Song of The Day: “My Prerogative”

The Philadelphia Inquirer has penned an important editorial about Council control of development that pretty much everyone should read. It’s a serious problem and if you’re working on neighborhood development issues, you best pay attention.

This latest unfortunate news details how City Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. blocked the construction of dozens of new houses in the fourth district “with the help of councilmanic prerogative, an unwritten rule that allows district Council members to control development on their turf.”

The only thing I have to add that the good reporters at the Inquirer didn’t say is this: whenever I read about councilmanic prerogative, I usually hear the chorus to Bobby Brown’s classic 80’s jam “My Prerogative” in my head and I think you should too. “I don’t need permission / Make my own decisions (Oh!) That’s my prerogative.” Pull it up on Spotify and give it a listen. Or better yet, watch the music video.

While its difficult to look beyond the greatness of this dance hit, the reality of councilmanic prerogative is just oh so sad.

“For the first time in decades, Philadelphia has been growing. Council bossism shouldn’t be allowed to stand in the way,” closes the Inquirer. Forealz. I’ll leave it at that.

Read more: “De facto” land taking could cost Phila. dearly later.

Fourth District City Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. (via Emma Lee/for NewsWorks)

Fourth District City Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. (via Emma Lee/for NewsWorks)

“Ego trips is not my thing.”

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