If A&E ever wanted to bring back Parking Wars, they should have attended last night’s zoning committee meeting in which developer Leo Addimando faced off against a room of 30-some passionate neighbors.
Addimando told the Passyunk Square Civic Association committee that he has approached the city about buying the parking lot on 12th Street between the firehouse at Reed Street and the Wharton Street Lofts, which he just started leasing in the former Annunciation School at 1148 Wharton St.
He would like it for a new five- or six-story building with 34 apartments — 28 one-bedrooms and six two-bedrooms — while still allowing public parking in the current parking lot. Addimando presented two proposals for how the lot could be used.
The first would maintain 39 free (until the city says otherwise) covered parking spots out of the 40 that are there now, all under a five-story complex. The second proposal, which would raise the building to six stories, but still be shorter than the Annunciation School, would include a two-level lot. The bottom level would contain 31 free spots and be open to the public, while the second level would contain 28 spots leased out to the building’s residents.
Attendees at the meeting were vocal about their opinions toward Addimando’s plan. Of the several opposing viewpoints raised, many noted parking in that area is already difficult. The lot currently is filled to capacity every day (Addimando contends that about half of the vehicles never move and that some are commercial vehicles that don’t run) and adding an apartment complex on top of that would only bring in more people fighting for a parking spot.
They also argued that with the 45 units at the Wharton Street Lofts, adding another 34 units next door would simply make a densely populated neighborhood even denser. Others were concerned about how the look of the area itself would change. With the surrounding streets currently full of single-family row homes, adding another multistory apartment complex would take away from what many consider to be a family-friendly neighborhood.
Not all participants were against the plan. A few residents saw no issue with the proposed complex and also believed that all the concern over parking was completely overblown. Not everyone in the neighborhood currently has a car, they said, and an apartment complex such as this one would likely skew toward younger residents anyway — many of whom would likely forgo owning a car in favor of other means of transportation.
“There’s a misperception that every person who moves into East Passyunk has a car,” Addimando told us after the meeting. He said in the neighboring lofts 33 units have been leased but only nine parking spaces have been reserved. He acknowledged that some of the remaining tenants probably have cars but said that most people were moving there partly because it is in a walkable neighborhood where they don’t need a car.
He also said that he offered to reduce the density and include a community space on the second floor overlooking Columbus Square Park. But he said 90 percent of the time, parking was the hot topic.
Any apparent movement on the proposal would likely be many months if not more than a year off. Addimando said there is some precedence of the city selling land to an adjacent property owner but noted that there is no set process for entertaining unsolicited bids. He said he went to the city, which asked him to go to Councilman Mark Squilla, who asked him to come to an agreement with neighborhood.
“We honed in on what might be acceptable for the neighbors,” Addimando said. If a compromise can be reached, then the city will appraise the land and Addimando will decide of the project makes economic sense.
“Towards the end people were in a better place about what our motivations were,” Addimando said. “My view is, at the end of the day, the city is going to sell that piece of property eventually. There should be a development plan that everyone can live with, and if we can’t come to an agreement then we move on.”