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May 11th GCCA Zoning Meeting: 4746-48 Spruce Street Civic Design Review

Garden Court Community Association has a regularly scheduled Zoning and Development Committee meeting at 8pm on Wednesday, May 11th. This meeting is open to the public; anybody can attend. We are meeting virtually, via Zoom; log-in detail are at the bottom of this post.

Meeting Agenda

This month, we have only one agenda item: the community meeting required through the Civic Design Review process for 4746-48 Spruce Street. The rest of this post will address the following questions:

  1. How was this meeting publicized how will the meeting be structured?

  2. What is the developer proposing?

  3. What is a Civic Design Review and how does it fit into the process?

  4. How can I make comments or ask questions?

How was this meeting publicized how will the meeting be structured?

Community meetings for development projects undergoing Civic Design Review (CDR) or going before the Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) are required to provide notice of the meeting to all properties within 250 feet of the proposed project. Additionally, GCCA is promoting the meeting by posting flyers on blocks surrounding the property, sharing this post with other affected Registered Community Organizations (RCOs), and sending it to GCCA membership and neighbors who have indicated they are interested in matters of zoning and development.

The agenda for the meeting will be as follows:

  1. Brief introduction by GCCA

  2. Applicant presentation of proposed project

  3. GCCA to pose frequently asked questions

  4. Questions and Comments to the applicant from the public.

In meetings like this with potential for many participants, everybody will be muted and participants will need to use the "raise hand" function to be unmuted and make a comment or ask a question. We will ask that anybody making comment state their name and the nearest intersection to where they live. In the interest of giving everybody an opportunity, we ask that questions and comments be limited to two minutes. Anybody wishing to ask questions or make comment without doing so in person, can make submissions via the link at the bottom of this post. We will post another such opportunity in this page after the meeting as well.

In the interest of everybody's privacy and to reduce anybody's discomfort in speaking publicly, this virtual meeting will NOT be recorded. Finally, development can be a contentious matter, but everybody in the meeting is a neighbor, and we ask that everybody be courteous with each other.

What is the developer proposing?

The zoning permit issued by Philadelphia's Department of Licenses and Inspections is for a 13-story building (six stories on the east end) with commercial space on the first and second floors (proposed uses include restaurant and grocery store), 170 residential units, 28 vehicular parking spaces (accessed via Spruce Street), 76 bicycle parking spaces, and an off-street loading dock (accessed via 48th Street). Through the Low Income Housing Bonus, the proposal includes a $1.8M payment toward the Housing Trust Fund. GCCA Zoning will be asking our city councilperson and the administration to ensure that these funds are used to maintain and/or create housing affordability in Garden Court and nearby neighborhoods.

The link below includes the package submitted by the applicant to the Planning Commission for Civic Design Review. Among other information, it includes floor plans, elevations, and perspective renderings. Further below in this post, please see how to make comments or submit questions.

48th and Spruce CDR package 2022-04-27 FINAL
Download PDF • 49.50MB

What is a Civic Design Review and how does it fit into the process?

The purpose of the Civic Design Review is to ensure higher quality design of public-facing elements of larger scale projects.

A Zoning permit has been issued for this proposal by Philadelphia's Department of Licenses and Inspections because the Department determined that the proposed project is in conformance with the property's zoning designation (CMX-3) and can be developed 'by right' without any variances approved by the Zoning Board of Adjustment. However, because it is of a certain scale, the proposed project is required to undergo Civic Design Review by a committee of the City Planning Commission before building permits can be issued. Unlike in the case of variance requests before the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA), the CDR is advisory in nature; it does not grant or refuse requests.

The community meeting held by GCCA on May 11th is not the official public hearing, but an opportunity for neighbors to hear about the project in advance, make comments, and ask questions ahead of the Civic Design Review held by the City Planning Commission.

The focus of Civic Design Review is "on the impact of building and site design on the public realm, particularly streets, sidewalks, trails, public parks, and open spaces;" this review separate from subjects governed by zoning, such as building use, parking, height, setback, and lot coverage. More specific criteria for review include the following, and any recommendations for changes to the proposal shall be directed toward improving performance in the following areas:

  1. Whether the design, including but not limited to the streetscape, curbside management, internal parking circulation, and vehicular and pedestrian access points, contributes to the walkability of adjacent streets;

  2. Whether the ground level design of the proposal contributes to street activity on adjacent streets;

  3. Whether the design of open spaces within the boundaries of the proposal are appropriate for their intended function and reinforce the importance, safety, and enjoyment of public use of those spaces;

  4. Whether the design allows adequate light and air for nearby public streets, sidewalks, trails, parks, open spaces, and adjacent properties;

  5. Whether the design reinforces and protects the desirable characteristics of the surrounding neighborhood through gradual transitions in bulk and scale and, if appropriate, buffers between the proposed building(s) and the adjacent area;

  6. Whether the design is consistent with the intended character of streets, sidewalks, trails, parks, and open spaces indicated in the Comprehensive Plan and master plan, if applicable;

  7. Whether the design is environmentally sustainable.

The CDR will be scheduled after our community meeting on May 11th, and will include a similar presentation from the developer. At the conclusion of that meeting, the CDR panel may decide to conclude the process or make suggestions based on the above criteria to the applicant and require them to re-present at a second meeting.

How can I make comments or ask questions?

1. In the meeting. As indicated in the agenda above, we will open the meeting to questions and comments. While members of the public are not strictly limited in terms of which questions and comments they pose, GCCA believes that it is most constructive to focus on the criteria laid out above by city statute.

2. Before the meeting. If you prefer to make comment or pose question in advance, you can use the link below. The comments will be summarized in the meeting summary GCCA submits to the Planning Commission, and we will draw on the questions to develop a list of Frequently Asked Questions to ask the applicant after their presentation.

3. After the meeting. On Thursday, May 12th, this post will be updated to include an opportunity to make comments about the presentation and responses to questions and comments made at the meeting.

4. Attend the Civic Design Review. Critically, this is not the last opportunity for public participation. The actual Civic Design Review is a public hearing held by the City Planning Commission, at which any member of the public may make comment. While the meeting is not yet scheduled, once it is, this post will be updated to include meeting information. Agendas for scheduled meetings are posted here.

Details for Joining the Meeting:

Time:  May 11th, 2022 08:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

or dial in to: +1-646-558-8656 or +1-301-715-8592 additional numbers at: Meeting ID: 919 7912 4404 Passcode: GCCAzoning

Get involved.

As always, our meetings are public and open for anyone to attend; if you are interested in receiving email updates from the Zoning Committee, or are interested in joining when there is an opening, please email - not yet a GCCA member? Join here! Our geographic boundaries are 45th Street, Cedar Avenue, 52nd Street, and Locust Street.



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