Development Proposed at 4701 Pine Street (over existing garage)
MAKE WRITTEN PUBLIC COMMENT
GCCA has created a survey tool to sign up to stay involved and make public comment following the 8/25 community meeting. All public comments will be submitted to the Civic Design Review by GCCA. The survey and comment form may be found here. Please read below for a recap of the community meeting, project information, and description of the CDR process.
This project has been put on the agenda for the 9/8/20 meeting of the Civic Design Review Committee, which will be a virtual meeting. Please see this link for details. The meeting is open to the public to make comment.
The owners of the Garden Court Plaza (4701 Pine Street) - Infinity Collective and Spruce Street Commons - have submitted a zoning permit application for a substantial addition over the garage. It is a "by-right" project that complies with the zoning code (the CMX-3 district), which means that there are no variances requested, but its scale triggers a Civic Design Review (CDR) by the Philadelphia City Planning Commission; the Garden Court Community Association is the RCO that has been assigned to convene the required community meeting in advance of the CDR.
GCCA held a (virtual) community meeting regarding the project via Zoom at 6:30 pm on August 25, 2020. Including the zoning committee and the applicant team, there were 101 people in attendance. After a short introduction by GCCA, the applicant presented their project, and community members made comment and asked questions until about 8:45pm.
The introductory/background slides GCCA showed are available here:
GCCA asked the applicant to provide their presentation to be posted here for those unable to attend the meeting. They did not feel comfortable doing so; here is their response: "As you know, the CDR application is public and can be shared. The presentation we are preparing is our best attempt to introduce ourselves to the community, explain our inspiration, and identify and respond to the community concerns we have heard to date. However, we have not yet put together design drawings or construction drawings and as a result we have little visibility into construction costs and total investment basis. As such, our presentation serves to outline our goals and benchmarks for various threshold items and community concerns. We do not feel comfortable publicizing in writing these ‘goals’ until we have a firmer grip on the final project cost. Once we have final metrics and plans, we would be happy to share a final version of the presentation as this version would contain promises that we can stand behind as opposed to goals."
Ahead of the 8/25 community meeting, GCCA developed a set of important-and-likely-to-be asked questions based on anticipated community interests and concerns. The questions were submitted to the developer and, and in addition to addressing the topics at the meeting, they have provided written responses. Please download and review the questions and answers here:
WHAT IS BEING PROPOSED?
The project proposes 220 new apartments in a 6-story addition over the garage, beside the existing 14-story tower on the same parcel. The project meets its parking obligations (3 spaces for every 10 units in the CMX-3 district) with the existing 260-car garage. The developer has shared their Civic Design Review submission with GCCA; to learn more about the project before the meeting, please download and review it here:
WHAT IS A CIVIC DESIGN REVIEW? WHAT ABOUT VARIANCES?
Often times, community meetings are convened for projects seeking variances - relief from the zoning code in the form of height, setbacks, parking, uses, etc - from the Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA). In such cases, the ZBA will either approve or deny those variance requests and the community meeting may help inform their decision, based on neighbors' support or opposition.
This project, however, is NOT seeking variances because the Department of Licenses and Inspections has determined that it is compliant with the zoning district applied to the property (CMX-3). But the proposal is for more than 100 units of housing or 100,000 square feet of new gross floor area, the project requires review by the City Planning Commission's Civic Design Review Committee (CDR). Unlike the ZBA, which has the authority to grant or deny variances, the CDR is an advisory body, relying largely on the power of persuasion to influence projects.
According to the City, the it is the role of the committee to consider how well the project’s design relates to the public realm—that is, the part of a development that people can see or physically access. Subjects of discussion may include:
Sidewalks and streets.
Building height and bulk.
Parking and loading conditions.
Building materials and transparency
The committee then recommends improvements to the project that positively impact the public realm. Recommendations are advisory, and the development team may choose whether or not to implement them. The CDR may require a developer to return to a second meeting to respond to its recommendations.
SO WHAT IS THIS COMMUNITY MEETING FOR AND HOW WILL IT WORK?
First, foremost, and as always, we ask that everybody be considerate toward each other, the developer, and members of the committee. Please bear with us as we navigate the challenges of holding a community meeting remotely in these unusual times.
The purpose of this community meeting is twofold: 1. Inform near neighbors and the broader community about the project that is proposed; 2. Gather feedback to share with the CDR as that committee considers whether to ask the developer to make any design changes to the project.
Note: community meetings before a ZBA hearing often culminate in a community poll of support or opposition to the granting of the variances in question; as the CDR does not have the authority to grant or deny a permit, a poll of community support/opposition will not be taken at the meeting. Rather, GCCA encourages thoughtful questions and comments about the design elements that the CDR will consider and how the project may be improved.