8/27: Neighbors to Discuss 303 S 51st Street
Neighbors for Healthy Community Development (NHCD) is holding a neighborhood organizing meeting about a mixed-use project that has been permitted for a lot in the middle of the 5000 block of Pine/Spruce - 6:30-7:30 on August 27th at First Corinthian Baptist Church (51st and Pine).
NHCD was formed because of neighbor concerns about the project. The permitted project is for 33 residential units with ground floor commercial space in three 3-story buildings accessed by a driveway on 51st Street, across from Malcolm X Park. The developer will not be present at the meeting; rather, NHCD will be sharing a "counter proposal" NHCD has developed. NHCD has open communication with the developer and is planning a future community meeting. A flyer for the event is included below.
But first... but how did we get to this point?
The site in question was used as a mechanic's garage as early as 1910, when all but the southwest corner of Garden Court was still made up of large estates or farms. The shop has long ceased operation and although its roof no longer exists, debris from the previous use remains, joined by various flora and fauna.
In 2012, when the City of Philadelphia adopted a new zoning code, this parcel was zoned CMX-2 - a district intended for small neighborhood "main streets" that requires commercial use on the street frontage. In 2018, the Planning Commission recommended a "remapping" of zoning in Garden Court that, among other things, would have changed the zoning of the site to RSA-3, a single family housing district; Garden Court Community Association (GCCA) repeatedly advocated for this remapping to be passed by the City Council. The legislation necessary to do so, however, was never introduced by a councilperson and in the winter/spring of 2019, a developer (Callahan Ward) submitted a proposal to the Department of Licenses and Inspections for a project the complies with the code and a permit was issued. Pending building permits, the project may be built.
A group of neighbors learned of the project, grew concerned about its possible impacts, and has been in touch with GCCA since April; as a code-compliant project without presence on a public street, GCCA determined the matter to be outside the community-wide purview of our volunteers, but advised neighbors to organize and seek legal counsel if need be. Since then, neighbors have formed NHCD and have met regularly; its leadership has solicited community input and been in regular contact with the developer. While the developer has no legal obligation to engage with the community, they have exhibited a willingness to do so. Next week's meeting and any followup discussion with Callahan Ward may be key moments in the future of the site.
GCCA remains a neutral third party, but is happy to facilitate civic discourse between neighbors and property owners as appropriate.