City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson introduced legislation Thursday to bar construction for a year at the South Philadelphia property where developer Bart Blatstein has proposed an apartment tower, shopping complex, and parking garage.
Johnson's move came a day after zoning officials voted to permit the development at the northeast corner of Broad Street and Washington Avenue, though they backtracked on their decision hours later, after being told it had been made prematurely.
"This is a very large development project that is going to have a huge impact on the quality of life for a lot of neighbors," Johnson said in a statement Thursday. "There needs to be some compromise between the developer and the community on a project this large."
Blatstein's project calls for a 32-story tower and an outdoor shopping mall atop a city-block-size podium of larger-format retail and parking. He has defended the project in the past, saying many modifications, such as the consolidation of two towers into one and improved access to the raised shopping platform, had already been made in response to community input.
Blatstein's lawyer, Ronald Patterson, did not immediately return a call Thursday seeking comment.
The developer's plan was considered April 27 by the city's Zoning Board of Adjustment, from which the developer needed waivers from area regulations that would prohibit the above-ground parking and podium-top stores.
Chief among the concerns of neighbors who testified at that hearing were the height of the tower and expansive walls of the parking and retail podium that they said would dull the streetscape.
"If this goes up the way he wants it to go, all I will see is walls when I look out my window," Louise Hanible, 76, said at the session.
Johnson, in whose district the site is located, expressed his opposition to the plan through an aide.
The April 27 meeting ended with the Zoning Board agreeing to delay its decision on the proposal for two weeks, to allow internal discussion. That would have resulted in a vote on May 11.
Instead, members voted Wednesday afternoon, only to vacate their decision 21/2 hours later - about 7 p.m. - after learning through discussions with a staff attorney that the earlier-than-expected vote violated protocol, said Karen Guss, a spokeswoman for the Department of Licenses and Inspections, which administers the zoning code.
The Zoning Board's decision to hold the vote was made in an effort to clear a backlog of undecided cases, Guss said. Members plan to vote again once the two weeks have passed, although the case has been closed to any new testimony since the original hearing on April 27, she said.
Opponents of the proposal, meanwhile, are in the process of securing pro bono services from a lawyer to challenge the board's decision if it does approve the proposal next week, said Raed Nasser, treasurer of the Hawthorne Empowerment Coalition, a community group active in the area.
Nasser said he was heartened by Johnson's call for the moratorium.
A spokeswoman for Mayor Kenney, who could veto Johnson's bill if it passes the City Council, said the administration is reviewing the legislation and talking to stakeholders.