Construction of townhouses at the site of the long-vacant Mount Sinai Hospital in South Philadelphia could begin in the next few weeks, now that the city Zoning Board of Adjustment has given its approval for this first phase of a larger project proposed by Greenpointe Construction.

Building permits are pending for the 37 three-story townhouses. Still awaiting approval is a plan to convert the hospital's main building into up to 198 apartments.

Greenpointe, a Philadelphia firm run by Gagandeep Lakhmna, seeks historic tax credits to renovate the main building, said Koenig. The site includes a 2,500-square-foot commercial space at the old emergency entrance, plus parking areas.

The renovation will require National Park Service review. "The building was built around the turn of the century, and hospitals tend to be historic because of the services they provided," said Matthew Koenig, principal at BartonPartners, the architecture firm working on the project.

Neighbors have asked that the number of apartments in the main building be reduced from 198 to 175.

BartonPartners said the townhouse phase received zoning approval in early March. To be completed within the next eight to 12 months, those units will ring the hospital campus, situated between Fourth and Fifth Streets and Reed and Dickinson Streets.

According to the Dickinson Square West Civic Association, residents want asbestos remediated in the old hospital building and more greenery and landscaping, as well as environmental features such as a green roof, solar panels, and storm-water management through plantings.

In a March 2 letter to the zoning board, the association also expressed concern that Lakhmna "had done a number of smaller projects, but not one of this size," and that he has been involved in lawsuits "relating to financing and other projects, the most recent of which was in 2013."

Doing business as Creating Real Estate Innovations (CREI), Lakhmna developed the 40-unit American Loft condo building at 712 N. American St. in Northern Liberties. It was foreclosed on by Abington Bank in 2009. CREI subsequently owed millions of dollars to local contractors as well.