Let’s Go Zoning!

Zoning is the hottest craze to hit East Falls since traffic calming. Get in on the thrills of RM2, CMX3, curb cuts, and more at this month’s East Falls Zoning Meeting.  Seriously:  game-changing presentations by Grasso (Rivage) and HOW (Redeemer) practically guarantee an eventful evening, for reals. 

EastFallsLocal if everyone is moving forward together banana EFF logo

Heads up, people! This upcoming zoning meeting’s gonna be a doozie:  both Rivage and Redeemer projects (detailed below) will alter their immediate neighborhoods quite drastically, plus increase our population density here in East Falls, which’ll affect us all in good & bad ways.

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Pros for density extend beyond filling up vacant space currently being wasted on our waterfront. New business seeks out areas with lots of people aka customers for shops and services, bars and restaurants, theaters and art galleries. It’s a simple equation:  if we want more places to go and things to do here, we’ll need more residents. 

EastFallsLocal dont give up most now

Of course, with more people there are more cars, so traffic and parking are huuuuuuge concerns — especially for folks here who like our “suburban” luxuries like sleepy streets and ample parking. Regardless, modern city planners maintain that prioritizing cars leads to lower property values and thwarted economic development which’ll be another post for another day, but still:  growth needs to strike a balance.

Whether we like it or not, building a sustainable community requires change — and it’s coming. Now’s the time to bring out your questions, comments, and concerns. Join your neighbors Wednesday April 20 at 7 pm in Down’s Hall on Philadelphia University’s campus.  Hot-buttons on the agenda:

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Eastfallslocal Redeemer collage penn street arrows text

1.  HOW Properties’ Town/Apartment Home project in the former Redeemer Lutheran Church at Conrad and Midvale (which includes a school building on Penn Street). Developer Gary Jonas would like to renovate the church into apartment units, and build 5 townhomes on the Penn Street property.

This is Gary Jonas’s second time presenting for this project; after the first time, a group of near neighbors asked him to consider some adjustments to his plan, including:

  • Reduce number of units in church from 9 to 4
  • Eliminate proposed parking lot on church’s lawn for apartment tenants (keep the trees & green, allow for street parking)
  • Move curb cut/driveway access from Midvale to Conrad
  • Redesign without fake historical details to differentiate from current homes

EastFallsLocal plans collage


He’ll be reviewing the new plan with hopes of moving forward. FYI:  HOW Properties is the developer behind the new St. Bridget’s Lofts luxury apartments in the former school building on Stanton Street.

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2.  Grasso Holdings’ Multi-use apartment complex proposed for the former “Rivage” site at Ridge, Calumet, and Kelly Drive.

UPDATE 4-12-16:  GRASSO CANCELLED!  EFCC says he doesn’t have his paperwork, so… um…. okay. He’s off the agenda, then. Presenting in May, instead. Hmmmm. Please enjoy our notes on Grasso, below, anyway: 

After he presented the first time last October, the Community Council called a special “near neighbors” meeting with the Falls Ridge residents who occupy the apartments above East River Bank on Ridge (across from the proposed development).

Curiously, however, most of the people with concerns and questions at the second meeting were the same folks asking the same questions they asked the initial time Grasso presented. And boy were they huffy that he didn’t have answers — even though he said in the beginning he was just recapping his last presentation.

In fact, every time we’ve seen Grasso present, these certain neighbors have shown palpable distrust and ire at his plans to bring 70 MILLION DOLLARS of badly-needed development to our inexplicably desolate riverfront district.

EFCC’s own recent survey reveals 80% of members are in support of Grasso’s plans as proposed, yet the project remains stalled as  vocal and apparently dominant EFCC members demand additional specs, renderings and shade studies (which have already been conducted & approved for an even bigger building proposed here previously, btw).

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What’s up with this, East Falls?  Why are we letting  a small, negative, and quite possibly unstable group of neighbors call the shots for all of us? This is our home, too — if 80% of us (at least) want riverfront development, let’s do this.

EastFallsLocal zoning meeting announcement

Join us Wednesday evening, April 20th to show your support and/or voice your concerns on these two one very important local projects that will affect all of us in one way or another.

EastFallsLocal best way predict

Big changes are coming to East Falls — what a fantastic opportunity we all have to create a neighborhood for everyone!  With democratic voting now in place with East Falls Forward, we really can work out new business, neighborhood, & development issues by consensus. Easily, too: vote in-person or online.  And FREE, of course.

Want a playground at McMichael or have dreams of a local Trader Joe’s? Get in here! Together, we can appeal to organizations and franchises on our own behalf, no committee approval needed.

EastFallsLocal Jane Jacobs quote

Where else but on this super-local level can we vote on issues, rather than for people or parties? One person, one vote — one issue at a time. Vote by vote, we can build a community we can all enjoy, that expresses our unique values and interests.

OMG! Guys, I’m verklempt with liberty and the pursuit of happiness!

EastFallsLocal Next Meeting chair bulogics survey address

Speaking of the democratic process, the very next evening after East Falls’ zoning meeting, East Falls Forward will hold this month’s general meeting at BuLogics on Midvale. As usual, the first half hour is all socializing (beer and snacks provided or bring your own to share!) and then we’ll all move over into the conference room to get our zoning on. While we won’t be voting this time around, we’ll go over results from last month and gather info for future decisions.

Hope to see you but if you can’t make it out, no worries you can catch up a few days later with our video recaps. If you’ve got questions you’d like us to ask about Redeemer or Rivage, let us know in the comments below or email us privately.  Thanks!

(Forgive this child of the 70’s but anything vaguely democratic brings on the Schoolhouse Rock)


  1. I support the efforts to develop the eyesores on Ridge Ave. The additional neighbors are welcome and will contribute to making East Falls an even better neighborhood.

  2. Hi Carolyn, Thanks for helping get the word out for the 4/20/16 zoning mtg and all you and Steve do to highlight east falls, and the great stuff that is happening.

    I comment to make sure your readers know that Mr. Grasso is NOT going to be part of the April meeting, and hopes to be at the May mtg which I believe will be on May 18th, 2016. He wrote the note I posted below my comment which explains why.

    I’d also like to take the opportunity to correct a segment of your blog post above which was recently highlighted for me.

    To the best of my knowledge the project is not “stalled”. I’m absolutely positive that Mr. Grasso would disagree that the project is “stalled” and I’m curious why you would write that it was stalled given that we all thought he would be coming to meet with folks in April to move forward.

    Also as a member of EFCC leadership I can assure your readers we are not “demand(ing)” anything and are NOT holding his project up. I have *requested* additional information consistent with what we request from applicants and consistent with pretty standard expectations that real estate developments are explained including renderings from more than one angle, site plans, and enough detail to allow projects, esp. large ones, to be understood in their preliminary design phase. No shade study is required.

    HOW is a fine and recent (above and beyond?) example of the level of information we should expect from applicants, and to be clear, that is a project that did get held up because of a notification debacle that had the near neighbors (coordinated by a member of the EFDC board and someone involved in EFF as well as EFCC) confused and unhappy. I dont mention that to draw distinctions amongst organizations but instead to highlight that I have found in my ~6 months doing this, its just not accurate to paint this stuff with a broad brush.

    I do not condone the tone and approach taken by select EFCC members in the videos you’ve created, and from my perspective there is always a better way and we do have work to do to end that sort of dynamic. Video’ing meetings and making them accessible to people who don’t or cant attend is a helpful part of that.

    I also believe that people’s behavior speaks for itself.

    Regardless, and I know you want a more activist approach to leading meetings which sadly may be necessary, those comments were not from EFCC leadership and I have heard, with a kinder tone, from EFDC, the founders of EFF, and many EFCC members that Rivage project needs to be more comprehensively explained which Mr. Grasso also expects.

    Here is his note:

    “Todd, as per our conversation yesterday, the department of Licenses and Inspections unfortunately has not released our final refusal letter as of yet. We had thought it was sent out to our attorney over a week ago and that is why I had asked to be on the April Zoning Committee agenda. Regrettably, I have decided to withdraw from this month’s agenda as a result. Please note that I am making this decision only in an abundance of caution so that there is no doubt all we have followed all rules and regulations of the City, the East Falls Community Council and East Falls Forward. You and your organization have been very cooperative and I appreciate your understanding. I am the owner of the site already and, as a member of the community, I committed to developing it into a high quality mixed use project that i firmly believe will be of great benefit to the community. I will be sharing plans and renderings with you in short order for you to share with the community, well in advance of the May Zoning Committee meeting.

    Best regards.



    • Thanks for chiming in, Todd! I did not intend the word “stall” to seem loaded with any meaning other than “the project that Grasso himself said he was hoping to break ground on this Spring is not moving forward as planned.” To me, that’s “stall” and I stand by it as the best verb in this instance. I did remove “EFCC leadership” from the sentence, though, thank you for helping us tweak the accuracy of our posts!

      Here’s hoping things move forward on that property soon — the community (at least, many of us here) is watching, waiting, and hoping.

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