Developers are hoping to build a five-story apartment building with a ground-floor restaurant on a vacant, triangular property at the intersection of East Passyunk Avenue, 6th and Christian streets in Bella Vista.
Neighbors spent years trying to get the property dedicated as a park. The property's owner, Stuart Schlaffman, had previously allowed neighbors to clean up the property and plant flowers and shrubs there, though he says that he's always intended to sell it. The Redevelopment Authority briefly made moves to try to acquire the property from Schlaffman, who also owns Condom Kingdom on South Street, but those plans were never realized.
Later, after the never-quite-a-park was dismantled and fenced off, excavators started digging on the property in what seemed like preparation for a development. Rumor was, they had simply made a mistake, and meant to dig at a property across the street instead. Neighbors were concerned because the property, which used to house a gas station, has environmental remediation needs.
Now, two developers really are hoping to build on the property. Dan Rosin and Raphael Licht met with near neighbors to discuss the proposal last week, according to Sam Olshin of Atkin Olshin Schade, the architects for the project. The purpose of that meeting was to get early feedback from the most-affected residents before a formal presentation to Bella Vista Neighborhood Association scheduled for next Tuesday.
Renderings of the proposal show a 57-foot building, rising to 64 feet at the top of a pilothouse, with glassy restaurant space on the ground floor. A commercial kitchen is included in the floor plans. The renderings don't include a number of residential units, but a zoning appeal says the developers are hoping to build 12 apartments. No parking spaces are included.
Sam Olshin said that near neighbors' concerns were focused mostly on height and parking, and that the developers were willing to talk through those concerns. A hearing before the zoning board — the current proposal doesn't conform to the height and lot-coverage limits of the CMX-2 zoning classification — is scheduled for Jan. 6.
The final sale will depend on the acquisition of zoning permits and the extent of environmental remediation required by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
PlanPhilly, a project of WHYY and Newsworks.org, is an independent newsroom dedicated to covering design, planning and development issues in Philadelphia.