Category Archives: Zoning

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

Single Room Occupancy Proposed for Two Germantown Row Houses

340 Woodlawn

340 Woodlawn via Google Maps

On Wednesday, July 23, a group of Registered Community Organization’s (RCO) will hold a joint community zoning meeting to discuss three properties requesting zoning variances from the City’s Zoning Board of Adjustment. The meeting will be held at 6:30 PM at 5245 Germantown Avenue, presented by Germantown Community Connection, Wakefield 49’ers Community Development and Improvement Association, Faith CDC/RCO and G’Town Restoration CDC/NAC.

Two of the properties under discussion are seeking to convert existing single-family dwellings into single room occupancy, more commonly referred to as rooming houses. The third request is to convert the 1st floor of a building into a day care center. Click on the map link below to open up the address into Google Maps street view.

  • 340 W Woodlawn Street, 19144 in West Germantown [map]
    APPLICATION FOR A SINGLE-ROOM RESIDENCE IN AN EXISTING STRUCTURE.
  • 5602 McMahon Street, 19144 in East Germantown [map]
    TO CONVERT THE USE OF AN EXISTING SEMI-DETACHED STRUCTURE FROM A SINGLE FAMILY DWELLING TO A GROUP LIVING/SINGLE ROOM RESIDENCE.
  • 5201 Wakefield Street, 19144 in East Germantown [map]
    APPLICATION IS FOR A DAY CARE CENTER ON 1st FLOOR WITH ALL OTHER USES AS PREVI-OUSLY APPROVED.

All Germantown residents are of course welcome to attend, but if you happen to live nearby any one of the properties above, we especially encourage you to attend this important zoning meeting and share this information with your neighbors.

RSVP: Sloane Folks: 215/991-4744 or sfolks@gtownrestorationcdc.org

Germantown Community Connection, Wakefield 49’ers Community Development and Improvement Association, Faith CDC/RCO and G’Town Restoration CDC/NAC have been granted Local Registered Organizations (RCO) status by the Philadelphia City Planning Commission (PCPC). The RCO system is designed to improve community notification of proposed developments and make community involvements more predictable across the City. The RCO system of community notice of meetings applies to variance and special exception cases.

Ways to improve public notice of neighborhood development projects

Around the Clock Home Health Care RenderingThere’s a buzz. There’s a hum. There’s that hammering and drilling again. The noticeable uptick in development projects in Germantown has pushed us to expand the W Rockland St Project’s focus and create a development news section on our blog that we’re calling Changing Germantown. Lately Germantown has been in the news for an array of neighborhood revitalization and community development activity. In February it was announced that Germantown was selected as a PhillyRising 2.0 zone. We’ve got the Germantown Special Services District (GSSD) cleaning the main business corridor again. Soon the Queen Lane apartment tower will be demolished and new housing will emerge.

After watching the foundation of a new building go in on the 4300 block of Germantown Avenue between the Germantown Friends School parking lot and the Holsey Temple Christian Methodist church, we decided to find out what it would be.

The building will house Around The Clock Home Health Care, a privately owned and operated agency that provides daily home health care services including personal care, meal preparation, light housekeeping, respite care, companionship, escorts and more. The business is moving from its headquarters at 5245 Germantown Avenue, an office building just a few blocks away owned by developer Stan Smith of Philly Office Retail.

Photo by Aine Doley

New construction on the 4300 block of Germantown Avenue. Photo by Aine Doley.

A Google maps satellite image of the site in 2012. The 4300 block of Germantown Avenue falls between Coulter Street and Penn Street.

The new facility will primarily be used as office space for Around The Clock employees, according to a recent NewsWorks article. “It will also provide additional room to expand training programs for its employees so the company can ultimately provide more diverse services to seniors,” wrote Queen Muse.

This business district is full of life with two new businesses as near neighbors, Sandalwood Yoga Studio and the soul food restaurant Tasties. Developer Ken Weinstein, also of Philly Office Retail, is currently renovating 5301 Germantown Avenue, a six-story property next to Holsey Temple at the corner of Germantown Avenue and Penn Street. 5301 is the largest building on the block and will feature a 1,600 sq ft cafe and restaurant space on the ground floor and 11 market rate apartments, in addition to an unknown residential use on the upper floors. Weinstein has said he cannot legally disclose the name of the non-profit or the nature of the additional residential use, which is rumored to be a shelter.

Prior to the NewsWorks story, there was much online chatter and speculation about what was coming to the construction site. Co-owner Patricia McKinley noted that outreach was done to nearby community groups, businesses and institutions, but that still left many other Germantowners clueless. Some residents who misread the banner advertising McDonald Building Co. were relieved to find out that the fast food chain McDonald’s was not coming! A quick Google search of McDonald Building Co. leads to a rendering and project description for the new building.

Recent confusion about this development and others has revealed that Germantown (and Philadelphia at large) needs better practices for getting information out to the greater community. Improved signage at development projects would be one quick solution. Take a look at these two signs outside of construction sites in New York City and Toronto.

Click to enlarge photos by Emaleigh Doley (R) and Ashley Hahn (L) snapped while traveling via Instagram.

Informational signage works to both squash speculation and engage residents in the development of their neighborhood.

After a trip to Toronto, Ashley Hahn wrote about the city’s smart signage for PlanPhilly’s Eyes on the Street blog: “This simple but robust public notice requirement is exactly the sort of move that could help Philly neighbors get key information and be aware of when a meeting is scheduled for major projects. It would also help developers make sure fewer people could claim they never were informed about a particular development.” (Read the full story: Five ideas Philly should steal from Toronto.)

It would be to Germantown’s benefit to establish a standard sign template for high profile projects that goes beyond the often confusing (and tiny) zoning, construction, and permit postings required by the City of Philadelphia. Perhaps this is something the local community development corporations G’Town Restoration CDC and Germantown United CDC can collaborate on with the neighborhood’s Registered Community Organizations.

What’s Happening

  • New construction
  • Business: Around The Clock Home Health Care
  • Current Address: 5226 Germantown Avenue. Info: (215) 991-6222
  • Builder: McDonald Building Co.
  • Architect: Blackney Hayes Architects
  • 10,000 square foot office space
  • Partial-vegetative roof system
  • Completion scheduled by the end of 2014

Developer Ken Weinstein’s growing presence along Germantown Avenue to be discussed at June 3 community meeting

4811 Germantown Avenue, part of the former Germantown Charter School Campus.

4811 Germantown Avenue, part of the former Germantown Charter School Campus.

Ken Weinstein of Philly Office Retail will host a community meeting about the redevelopment of the former-Germantown Settlement Charter School Campus on Germantown Avenue this Tuesday, June 3 at 7pm. The meeting is open to the greater Germantown community (not just near-neighbors) and will be held on-location at 4811 Germantown Avenue in the former St. Michael’s Church. (Download a PDF of the flyer shared by Ken Weinstein.)

Over the past few years, Weinstein has acquired a growing number of properties in the area, many of which are concentrated along Germantown Avenue, the neighborhood’s main thoroughfare which features several business districts.

Ongoing development of the five building six acre Settlement campus has the potential to redefine a significant portion of Germantown Avenue nearby Wayne Junction Station.

At Settlement, the youth drama school Greatness Is In You will join New Directions for Women, a residential penal facility for female ex-offenders that has operated on the campus for over 20 years, and the for-profit adult daycare center Tori’s Garden of Eden, also under renovations. Two other buildings remain vacant.

After two contentious zoning meetings about the adult daycare in February and April, near-neighbors are eager to engage in a healthy dialogue with the developer and build a vision for the entire campus.

A diagram of the former Germantown Settlement Campus, courtesy of Ken Weinstein. Click to enlarge.

A diagram of the former Germantown Settlement Campus, courtesy of Ken Weinstein. Click to enlarge.

The Schaeffer School at 4701 Germantown Avenue. Photo taken on November 16, 2013.

The Schaeffer School at 4701 Germantown Avenue. Photo taken on November 16, 2013.

Weinstein also owns several other significant buildings in the immediate vicinity, including the former C.W. Schaeffer Public School at 4701 Germantown Avenue, adjacent to the Settlement campus. Together, these large scale properties front nearly an entire block of the Avenue, less than half a mile away from Wayne Junction Station.

Beyond Settlement, there is currently a rising debate about 5301 Germantown Avenue, a six-story property owned by Weinstein on a largely historic stretch of the Avenue. That building is less than one mile away from the Settlement campus and currently under redevelopment.

The property is said to feature a 1,600 sq ft cafe and restaurant space on the ground floor and 11 market rate apartments (one and two-bedroom units), as confirmed by the developer on a neighborhood Facebook group and advertised on the building facade. The primary use of the building is rumored to be a 100-bed shelter, managed by an unnamed non-profit.

When pressed about the unadvertised building use at a recent Baynton Hill Neighbors civic group meeting, Weinstein said that he could not legally disclose the name of the non-profit or the nature of the additional residential use.

Further along the Avenue, Weinstein recently toured Germantown High School – perhaps the largest vacant building on Germantown Avenue at 355,372 sq. ft. – and is considering purchasing the property from the Philadelphia School District.

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