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What's Happening in:  Passyunk Square 

Parking riles up neighbors of potential apartment building on 12th Street lot

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.

A potential five-story version

A potential five-story version

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.

Option A

Option A

Option B

Option B

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.

You can see the old Annunciation, now Wharton Street Lofts next door.

You can see the old Annunciation, now Wharton Street Lofts next door.

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.

Wharton Lofts2-rendering2

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.” 

- Brian Kravitz

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15 Responses to Parking riles up neighbors of potential apartment building on 12th Street lot

  1. AnthonyG February 12, 2014 at 12:02 pm #

    No problem. I’m some small time investor will come along and open a methadone clinic, retaining the parking.

    Becareful what you wish for. There are unintended consequences to driving away a decent developer…..

  2. Pennsporter February 12, 2014 at 12:09 pm #

    I’m note sure if the lot currently has a car share but it seems the developers could have gotten a better reception if he made this project less car oriented (ie. Dedicated car share/bike parking on site).

    Parking is always going to be a hot button issue but it also seems like this lot was taken advantage of in the sense that cars were left or inoperable, both scenarios are bad for the parking in the neighborhood.

    • Ben February 17, 2014 at 3:19 pm #

      If he made it any less car oriented, he would have been lynched. There were people there cheering a neighbor who suggested he retain the current spots plus add enough for 1.5 cars per unit, so 91 total spots.

  3. Dan P. February 12, 2014 at 12:26 pm #

    Real simple solution might be to put fliers on every car saying that on X date (some time at least a couple weeks into the future), all cars will be removed from the lot for “repaving” (or something). Residents who actively use it every day will be sure not to park there that day. Whatever is left there on that date gets dragged out. And you just go on from there.

  4. Adam February 12, 2014 at 1:27 pm #

    I understand the concern with parking – I had a house before where it was routinely a 30-45 minute drive looking for a spot if I came home after hours. But at the same time this man is looking to develop the neighborhood. If he leaves existing spots and then adds another level for residents then what’s the problem? People on here act like folks who own cars are going to ruin the neighborhood.

    The renderings are certainly better than a surface lot and a view of the back of the police motor pool.

  5. mjg February 12, 2014 at 1:48 pm #

    [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.]

    Sadly, this is true. He’s probably referring to the Philly “sideyard” rule, which this development would be a huge stretch of that law. My understanding is it allows homeowners adjacent to vacant land to buy the lot (at “market value”) as a sideyard, and after 10 years they can develop it.

    The law is terrible way to sell publicly owned property, and I really hope it’s not used to justify giving this developer purchase rights.

  6. jim February 12, 2014 at 2:38 pm #

    Complaining about parking should not be an issue,why do people think they deserve a free parking lot sell the land and let the Lofts be built, as long as the new residents have a space that should be the only issue. Some households have three or four cars, come on now this is the city not the burbs, I have no car and do just fine, using public transport and reducing the amount of cars should be the issue. The car fanatics would probably be happy paving over the park to have more spaces for all their cars

  7. AnthonyG February 12, 2014 at 3:02 pm #

    @Adam, the only way it takes 30-45 minutes to find a spot is if you keep driving around the SAME block. In over 30 years it has never taken me that long to find a spot.

    • Adam February 12, 2014 at 3:47 pm #

      Not the case. Been here for 35+ years and driving for 20+.

      All depends where you live and what time you’re coming home.

      • AnthonyG February 13, 2014 at 4:30 pm #

        You miss understood. I’ve been driving and parking in this neighborhood since 1983. It simply never takes 45 mins to find a spot, unless you’re trying to park on New Years Day. You have to be willing to park more than a block from your front door. To do otherwise is simply being delusional.

  8. fmd February 12, 2014 at 4:07 pm #

    Hey, if you want a parking lot make the city and offer for the land to keep it. Otherwise take you and your car to the suburbs or stop your whining and get a bike, some comfortable shoes, some SEPTA tokens or use a car share. If you need so much precious parking maybe you shouldn’t live in the city. I’ll take development over an unsightly parking lot any day.

    • Adam February 12, 2014 at 4:44 pm #

      Wow, some people are so self-righteous and angry. Car people hate bikes/pedestrians and vice versa.

      It’s a neighborhood – you’re going to have people of all types/kinds/attitudes/etc. That’s part of what made Passyunk a nice place before it was a booming neighborhood and that diversity is what is keeping it vibrant. I walk or take SEPTA everywhere I can but also require a car for work and for family; there are plenty of people like that. There are also plenty of people who never need to leave the city and can get around on foot or bus.

      Some people need cars, some don’t. Respect that rather than telling people “not to live in the city”. You don’t always know the circumstances of those you so bravely choose to berate online.

  9. Brian M. February 12, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    I don’t disparage folks who have a car in this hood and need a place to park it, but that really seems like a selfish and short sighted reason to flatly oppose this development. 39 parking spaces is more than reasonable for a 34 unit development. On the flipside the developer would be wise to go the extra mile and come up with an earnest idea or two to address parking concerns; preserving the carshare in this lot is a start.

  10. mememe February 13, 2014 at 11:07 am #

    I URGE everyone posting on here who supports this type of development to please stay updated on the progress of this and other proposals and ATTEND ZONING MEETINGS where these debates occur. Normally, the only ones who show up are the people against everything, and despite many logical people being out there, they stay home and we end up losing the debate in terms of sheer numbers. The zoning board takes into account the popular voice of the people, so please stay updated to your local civic association’s meetings and let your voice be heard when it counts!

  11. Josh February 13, 2014 at 11:25 am #

    I wish more of you non-driving residents had come out for the meeting. Concerns about parking buried what I think are more important issues about that block. At one point, there were advocates of 1.5 parking spaces per unit for the building development. The developer responded that these are 1 bedroom rental units and his pre-leasing of surface parking for the Annunciation project indicate only half of the renters have cars, an idea which was met with disbelieving guffaws from most of the audience.

    Our family of four chooses to get by without a daily car, but we do it by occasionally borrowing or using a carshare. I understand it is not possible (or attractive) for everybody, but demographic changes indicate that is the direction our larger cities are headed. Planning new construction should take these trends into account rather than following city planning guidelines from bygone era of Happy Motoring.

    MORE IMPORTANTLY, the developer suggested that the city would be selling all of the buildings on that block in the not too distant future. That includes the fleet services behemoth, the fire department, and the building housing L&I and the local police precinct. If fleet services could be converted into apartments (big IF) and the police and fire stations were build on top of, the only open space in the block would be the parking lot. Why build the one undeveloped space first? I think it should remain open until the city can come up with one sale to a developer with one plan. Doing it piecemeal starting with the unbuilt space leads to poorly planned, poorly executed and overbuilt spaces.

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