Philly.com has named developer Gary Jonas of How Properties as a Phila developer who listens to neighbors to create plans that jibe with their vision for the community.
Always nice to see good buzz about developers building here in East Falls. Along with this Philly.com article, we’re happy to share more links to support thoughtful development happening on our streets.
Last October, Gary Jonas presented at East Falls’ regular zoning meeting with plans to renovate Redeemer historic Lutheran church — sensitively — into apartments, respecting as much of the building’s character as possible. Gary disclosed that he appreciates history, and particularly enjoys the challenge of repurposing old structures into unique luxury living spaces.
You might remember “How Properties” from our post last Summer, when we checked out St. Bridget’s Lofts, the condos created from the church’s old school on Stanton Street. We thought it was cool how much of the old elementary school still remained, from the original subway tile to munchkin-sized water fountains left in one hallway as a quirky surprise. This certainly bodes well for Redeemer’s remodel.
Neighbors, however, aren’t all that thrilled with Jonas’ initial plans to build five 3-story townhomes on the Church’s back lot off Penn Street (currently a defunct daycare). The scale seemed way out of proportion for many locals at October’s zoning meeting, and currently Jonas has been talking with “near neighbors” to negotiate designs everyone is comfortable with.
Jonas has been patient & straightforward at zoning meetings, and also more informally, when he met with neighbors directly outside St. Bridget’s Lofts last September to address issues such as landscaping, parking, and safety concerns. Although the meeting started out kinda rocky, before long a satisfactory plan of action had been agreed on, and so far it seems peace on Stanton has been maintained.
Meanwhile, the church sits vacant at Midvale & Conrad — anchoring our Historic District but, oddly, not a part of it. Although the church pre-dates the homes surrounding it by almost two decades, the Historical Commission’s designation only pertains to the 210 Tudor-style homes built by developer Michael J. McCrudden on three blocks of Penn, Queen, and Midvale.
So this beautiful 105-year-old building could theoretically be mowed down to rubble for cheap townhomes — seriously, a developer wouldn’t even need to apply for zoning variances! Fortunately for East Falls, Gary Jonas wants to preserve Redeemer Church, but his plan includes compromises with the community that hopefully will work out over upcoming discussions. If not, he could walk & leave the property vulnerable to a less historic-minded builder.
Whatever happens, at least we’ve got photos! Big thanks to Teddy, Redeemer’s caretaker of many years, who kindly gave us free rein with our cameras to document all of the church’s lovely, historic details. To view these photos full-scale (and see even more images), please visit our Facebook slideshow.
Thanks for following Redeemer Church’s history as it unfolds before us — a space that was once as vibrant as East Falls’ business corridors. Both seem ripe for rebirth as we head into the New Year….
ENDNOTE: Redeemer’s congregation continues online, according to their webpage, where they provide all the heartbreaking details of their “major controversy” within the Southeastern PA Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
DID YOU KNOW? Relocating historic stained glass is a thing: https://www.sacredwindowrescueproject.org/essay.php