I Pity the Fool: East Falls Zoning Edition


Wednesday’s zoning meeting could be a game-changer for East Falls

If you miss the next East Falls zoning meeting this Wednesday at 7PM, I pity you. Because this isn’t your standard “converting three apartments to four” type of meeting, this one could be a game-changer for the Falls.

Why? Because heavyweight developer David Grasso (not pictured above) will be there to discuss his proposal for the site of the former Rivage Ballroom (aka Onion Flats, aka Ridge Flats). It’s the long-neglected, long-hoped for commercial project that could bring business and a couple hundred residents to our neighborhood. More on that later in this post….

Another item on the agenda is the possible purchase of the old Lutheran Church at the corner of Conrad and Midvale. That one is just about apartments but, given the sentimental value it has to many East Fallsers, that could spark some interesting discussion. (Check out the plans for the church — thanks Todd Baylson!)

Either way, do yourself a favor and get to Wednesday’s meeting. (Details at end of article)

About That Rivage Site…

I think Billy Ross speaks for many of us when he makes this “let’s remove our heads from our rears” motivational speech on Phillyspeaks about the new development plans for the Rivage Ballroom site (Ridge and Calumet):

“The Rivage site has been twisting in the wind for what is now decades at this point. The owner has a great plan to develop it. Time is of the essence at this point. Next year we’ll have a new city council and mayor. The bank financing environment won’t favor the development of luxury apartment buildings forever.

We need to grease the skids for this lest we miss yet another real estate development cycle. I would very much like to see this community communicate as clearly as possible that this development needs all approvals ASAP, which means this year, before we get a new administration and a new Council and the next bust occurs.

I’m not opposed to the other two proposals, nor am I gung ho in favor. But they are fly specks compared to lighting a fire to turn Ridge Ave into something we an be proud of by fixing the Rivage….If we shoot ourselves in the foot yet again by jerking around this guy with what he wants to build there, then we deserve for Ridge Avenue to be the embarrassing dump that it is. This is an opportunity for us to get a game changer in place there.”

We can hear the hardliner NIMBYs now “What about the traffic?” Well he’s got an answer for you too:

“The traffic (at Ridge and Calumet) isn’t caused by EF residents, and stymying the development of EF because of the traffic mess would be moronic. On top of that, part of this redevelopment involves doubling the width of Calumet as it approaches the Falls Bridge from one lane to two. That will dramatically improve traffic flow on Ridge, since the fact that 3800 Calumet is choked in the mornings blocks traffic all the way past Allegheny, as it did this morning. Allowing twice as many cars to stack up in 3800 Calumet to cross the bridge should change things dramatically and facilitate smooth traffic flow through Ridge and Midvale during the rush.

I repeat – anyone who opposes this redevelopment on traffic grounds needs to reach into their brain and turn the switch to ‘On’.”

Just in time for football season, thanks Coach Ross! But seriously, he’s got some great points about why we should be excited about the new proposal:

“…Green rooves on top of every level of a terraced building but the top level, providing gorgeous outdoor space for his tenants right outside of their units, with commercial on the ground floor, including a marquis cafe with outdoor space (I think) across from the Falls Bridge.

He’s even willing to be his own operator on the commercial pieces because he doesn’t trust the underdeveloped market in EF to absorb the commercial space with the amenities he’s looking for!

And of course I see the wisdom in that… His rents are going to be strong, and this development will bring maybe 200 people onto Ridge Avenue who are looking for quality commercial offerings, and it will bring quality commercial offerings of the type that I have been looking for for a long time.

I had figured that this apartment binge would crash before we got this built and we’d be stuck in a down cycle yet again with this parcel, but we have a ready, willing, and able developer who’s looking for some green lights. I certainly hope that all of the pieces fall into place.”

Sounds pretty cool to us.

In Search Of…

Tis the season for apparitions. Rumor has it there might be a sighting of the elusive East Falls Forward leadership at the meeting. We hope so — we were about to set up a tip line for anyone with information about their whereabouts or contact the Ghost Hunters TV show to channel their voices, ha.

East Falls Zoning Meeting

Wed 10/21 7PM

Downs Hall

4201 Henry Avenue

UPDATE (10/22): Great meeting last night. Very spirited crowd, overwhelmingly in support of Grasso’s plan, which by the way, has changed significantly in its appearance. We’ll be posting photos of the revised conceptual drawings today. Also, video highlights are on the way. Stay tuned!



  1. I agree that we should get out of the way and let this project go forward as smoothly as possible. But this is an informational meeting only – no approvals are being sought at this point.

  2. For those of us who couldn’t make it to the meeting, any chance you can post a brief summary/update on how it went?

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