More Luxury Condos for East Falls

Lots of permits for new construction for neighborhood review this Fall, including APPROVED plans for a multi-use development right near Laurel Hill & East Falls Fitness. Plus, 10/21 meeting discusses the fate of Redeemer Lutheran Church on Midvale, and more from the folks who own the fenced-up parking lot at Ridge & Calumet. 

The first local meeting we ever covered introduced us to a little-known  “disputed area” or “zone of shared jurisdiction,” here between two different community organizations: a stretch of Ridge Avenue from, like, the Twin Bridges to Scotts Lane, where “East Falls” kinda blurs into Allegheny West (the lines seem kinda fluid to us).

Whatever, the neighbors we met here from the Ridge-Allegheny-Hunting Park Association were a diverse mix of families, artists, students, and professionals with really interesting opinions, often quite passionately voiced.  They seem very open-minded to new business and development, with one big concern:  taxes.

It’s a common story of “gentrification” — new luxury construction raises surrounding property values far beyond what the average homeowner has ever paid, far more than they can afford. So they’re forced to sell to developers, who plow down all the historic old architecture & plop up shiny new condos high in the sky.

Neighborhoods die this way, all the time. This nook of NW Philly should probably be concerned.

But people are learning from earlier mistakes, hopefully. Philly’s trying, at least. Last year, the New York Times did a piece about how Philadelphia was leading the charge in “Affordable Communities” with ground-breaking legislation like Homestead Exemption (reduces tax assessment up to $30k), and “LOOP” — the Longtime Owner Occupants Program which allows homeowners of ten years or more to “freeze” their taxes for 10 years or more, depending on blah blah blah… Click the links for info, let’s get to the news:

LUXURY DEVELOPMENT GOING UP RIGHT NEXT DOOR:  2 city blocks of stores, condos, duplexes, apartments WITH POOLS ON TOP, PEOPLE!!! The space has been an empty, grassy lot for years — once the site of a warehouse or factory or something, since burned down.

KCA Design Associates presented at September’s RAH meeting at St. James School’s cafeteria, and to ask the community to consider changing zoning on the property at 3000 34th Street from Industrial to Mixed Use/Residential. This way, the developer can build more efficiently, without having to go back to Philly’s Zoning Board to sign off on every individual building.

This zoning change would save everyone on the construction team big bucks in lawyer’s fees, work delays, general hassle… They seemed delighted to put a portion of their savings back into the neighborhood, showing off two designs for a new community center they’d like to build on an adjacent plot of land. 

After answering questions from a mostly-supportive audience of about 60 people, the RAH Neighborhood Association (the area’s equivalent of East Falls’ Community Council) voted to approve the plans. Construction to begin… sometime. Soon. Probably. (still need to catch up with Rose.)

In other zoning news, a little closer to home:  you know that cool old Redeemer Lutheran church on Midvale, at Warden Drive? Right across from the library…? 

The same developer who renovated St. Bridget’s school into luxury condos will be presenting some kinda plan for a similar residential renovation for the church. This’ll is the second time this church has been up for the condo treatment — last year’s deal fell through, we never found out why. 

Also on the line-up, looks like a spa service needs a zoning variance to operate in Charter Court Apartments, and Grasso will be presenting some kinda info — so far they’ve submitted no details for the agenda — but they’re supposed to be presenting on a new plan for what has up till now been called the “Onion Flats” project on the former “Rivage Ballroom” site (the fenced lot at Ridge & Calumet). 

Should be an interesting meeting. Open too all, too:  Wednesday October 21st at 7:00 pm in Down’s Hall on Philly U’s campus.   See ya there!   EDITOR’S UPDATE:  Read comments & view video from this zoning meeting here.  


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