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What's Happening in:  Passyunk Square 

Zoning variance change denied for 9th and Wharton development

In order for the developers of the proposed four-story complex of apartments and retail at 9th and Wharton to move forward, they needed approval from the zoning board for the property to be rezoned from single-family to mixed-use.


The project, which has been met with much opposition from neighbors, was denied the variance change by the Zoning Board of Adjustment on Wednesday.

Some of the neighborhood’s main concerns regarding the project were based on the lack of parking in the already-busy area with Pat’s and Geno’s always drawing a crowd, making parking difficult for residents who live nearby.

More from The Inquirer:

The vote underscored the appointed panel’s enduring power, even as Mayor Nutter has made zoning reform a priority and has pushed the Planning Commission to craft comprehensive surveys of the city to recommend changes in land use and zoning.

In opting to keep the property zoned residential, the board, led by onetime Nutter aide Julia Chapman, disregarded that a week earlier, the Planning Commission recommended that the empty lot – zoned for a church long ago demolished – be rezoned for apartments and retail.

Lawyer Brett Feldman had made the case that the lot was the only nearby property fronting Ninth that lacked a commercial zoning designation. It is a stone’s throw from the Italian Market and sits across from open-at-all-hours Pat’s, and Geno’s Steaks also is just a few paces away.

For now the property is being used for a pop-up garden, but what does the future hold for this lot?

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33 Responses to Zoning variance change denied for 9th and Wharton development

  1. Lou_1000 June 18, 2015 at 10:35 am #

    Can’t wait for the Section 8 houses to be built on that lot. No zoning issues to deal with.

  2. Tom Halpin June 18, 2015 at 11:04 am #

    Agree with Lou_1000. It’s still blows my mind that parking can derail a project like this. If you want a parking space, go live in some godforsaken suburb like Cherry Hill.

    Drug stores, doctors, grocery stores, restaurants, clothing stores, and anything else you can possibly want is within a five minute walk of 10th and Wharton. The subway is a few blocks over, bus routes are everywhere, bike share stations are nearby, and you have Zipcar for any needs beyond that. Why should parking even be a concern?

    ‘Parking NIMBY’s’ are holding this city back.

    • Paul June 18, 2015 at 12:05 pm #

      Parking is ALWAYS AN ISSUE when comes to inner city quality of life!!!! A properly parked project is a design problem. They could build a thousand units there — as long as they have a thousand car garage!

      When America solves the car problem, then we can talk parking spaces. Until they rip highways up, We need parking.

      People who are against properly parked developments are short sighted people out for their own self interests!

      Why anyone, who actually lives in the area, would vote for density without parking is a fool! Your counting the developers profits/money. Who cares about him? He surely doesn’t care about us to propose an under parked project.

      Our Councilmen, Mark Squilla and Kenyatta Johnson need to get on board with this parking issue. They need to protect neighborhoods. not make it more difficult. On April 21, 2015, they sponsored a bill to make it more difficult — (look it up – zoning).

      As far as “holding back” city progress, I say, where were you for the last 60 years. You just discovered South Philly! We have made these neighborhoods pleasant. We don’t need people like you who come and go. Call me a NIMBY all you want — I love it!!

      You are not a neighbor. You are an outside person who jumped on this blog to satisfy your own self interest and your own cause.

      With that said, I say ……………..Screw you!

      • Lou_1000 June 18, 2015 at 12:45 pm #

        Paul, you need new glasses. You can’t see the forest for the trees.

        I Can’t wait till some “affordable” housing gets built on that lot. You do understand that is the ONLY type of houses that will be built there? Nobody is market rate to live next to that corner. Take a guess why? Too much TRAFFIC.

        I expect you to welcome your new Section 8 neighbors with open arms. Just think, finally some diversity in the neighborhood!

      • Stewie June 18, 2015 at 8:30 pm #


        You spouted the same argument against the development of the Mt Sinai site. So what neighborhood do you live in? Pennsport or Passyunk?

        • Paul June 22, 2015 at 7:12 pm #

          Guys/Gals – Parking is a big issue from center city to the stadiums. I live a block from BOK – parking is bad. My Daughters have 2 houses on the 2800 blocks –east side and west side area of Broad St/ 8th to 15th — Parking is pushed into those neighborhoods and is bad. My son & other daughter live on 11th and Federal — permit parking/ hard to find a place to park.

          So, STEWIE, what is your point about where I live? Parking problem is city wide –duh!

          PARKING IS AN ISSUE which developers should address. No one will convice me differently. Squilla and Johnson need to pick up the and carry the banner for the residents and not the developers who have deep pockets.

          LOU_1000 -The scare tactics of Section 8 housing is bulls**t. There are no more “projects” being built. And, I might add, it too would have to go thru zoning. Don’t be so quick to say yes to a developer’s first bite at the apple. Let him/her earn the gold they are digging out of South Philly.

          I have come to the conclusion that there are people on this blog who either are short sighted/ ignorant and willing to succumb to rich developers. Or, there are people who will benefit financially/politically by singing the praises for dense urban development with NO PARKING.

    • Chris June 20, 2015 at 8:51 pm #

      It derails the project because parking-tards are the only people who show up to the meetings.

      • Maria June 26, 2015 at 9:45 am #

        It derails the project because people who actually live there go to the meetings and know that parking is an issue. Walk in my shoes for a day. I live around the corner from this. On any given night, it takes me a half hour to an hour to park in my neighborhood. People that work for these developers need to get off of this message board now. You have no idea what you are talking about.

  3. Chris June 18, 2015 at 11:23 am #

    If I hear one more complaint about parking my head is going to explode! I will never understand neighbors that would rather look at a trash filled abandoned lot than have new construction that would contribute to the neighborhood in a positive manor. That’s the beauty of this city, it being so walkable, and living in close proximity to all the different shops, restaurants, etc. If you are so concerned with having your stupid parking spot directly in front of your house, then for god sakes move to the suburbs! Thank god they constructed the beer garden for now…although……uh oh…parking….

    • Chris June 20, 2015 at 8:54 pm #

      Call/email councilman (215)686-3458

      Or just show up at room 332 in city hall. He’ll listen.

  4. Tom D June 18, 2015 at 11:24 am #

    Whether you want to believe it or not parking is an issue in south philly. More retail where parking is already limited is a bad idea. There hasn’t been a church there in decades and then parking was only an issue on Sunday’s. Try living anywhere near Passyunk and see how it is to find a spot any evening. I like the new vibrancy of the avenue and the valet parking has been a huge relief but if I drive anywhere at night I must park blocks from my house and that is with circling for at least 15 to 20 minutes. Now try that with a load of groceries in your car. I’m not one of the ignorant slobs who just stops in front of my house to unload. I actually have consideration for others. Now let’s talk about the idiots who park in two spaces!

    • Jimmy June 18, 2015 at 11:51 am #

      Tom D,

      I appreciate your concern, but have you ever thought of grocery shopping at a time when it might not be so hard to get a spot? Saturday and sunday’s during the day there are spots galore.

      The reality is, as was pointed out by posters previously, there are a variety of alternatives to driving everywhere.

      • Tom D. June 18, 2015 at 12:22 pm #

        I used that as an example. I do my grocery shopping early Sunday’s. I hate driving and do as little as possible. But I work in DE. Weekends I usually bike where I need to go. But there are time when driving in the evening is a must. I have kids and I need to take them places. Imaging you have a child who goes to a friend’s house for the evening. They are not in walking distance. So I take them and need a spot then I pick them up and need a spot. A 5-10 minute drive turns into a half hour or more drive due to parking.

        You were respectful in your comment but the others above have no clue as to realities of life. If I was single I’d only drive to work but that just isn’t the case. Houses bring people and cars but retail with housing brings the homeowners and their cars then the people who do drive to these destinations. Parking must be a thought to any new developments just no garages please. The curb cuts are even worse!

        • steve June 18, 2015 at 12:52 pm #

          In all seriousness, what do you think of living in the suburbs? In your opinion, is the sacrifice of urban density – parking? Or something else?

          • Tom D June 18, 2015 at 2:25 pm #

            I’ve never lived in the suburbs and never will. I spent a week at my parents when they did and wanted to hang myself. I love the city but I recognize that parking is also a part of life. I don’t ever expect to park in front of my house but I’d like to not have to drive around looking for 20 minutes. I drive to work and try to walk or ride my bike whenever I can. My only sacrifice living in the city is no place to grow vegetables. My yard is small and very little light due to it being narrow.

            I don’t mind retail in most places but in this instance I commented because I know the neighborhood. Not mine but three blocks away. Pats and genos as a tourist magnet draws more cars that you can imagine plus the market. I could only imagine how hard it is to park there anytime of day.

            As a long time resident I’ve directed at least 250 people there while walking around. The are always in cars.

            Trust me I normally laugh at people complaining about parking but in this spot it is warranted.

    • Mike Scuilli June 19, 2015 at 11:05 am #

      Parking in front of your house to unload groceries doesn’t make you an ignorant slob…it makes you someone who grew up in this area and did it every week with their families, and calmly waited behind others when they did it on the street as well. It’s how people in cities live.

      If you don’t like it, then i suggest you get out of my city. We don’t want your negative, backwards way of thinking type here. I suggest taking the Ben to get to jersey, you’ll pass by the city of Camden, and if you look over as you speed by, you’ll city what a city really in despair looks like, a city that can never get out of its own way…and perhaps, just maybe, you’ll realize how good you had it living in south philly.

  5. Joecarpenter June 18, 2015 at 12:16 pm #

    Hey Paul most of the old guard in the neighborhood are the problem. There kids are junkies and roam around thinking they own the place. Also Paul I am philly born and raised and decided to move to south philly cause of how easy it is to walk to places. Paul I think u are a lazy person who probably drives to a me when u need something. More density is good for the neighborhood.

  6. steve June 18, 2015 at 12:49 pm #

    Always “Parking”:

  7. Chris June 18, 2015 at 1:04 pm #


    I am relatively new to the neighborhood (less than 60 years). However, I own my house and welcome positive change. Neighborhoods are always going to change, for the better or for the worse. If you are against projects like this because all you care about is where you’re going to park, then YOU are short sighted and selfish. You would rather “protect the neighborhood” by keeping it stagnant and stale then welcome new and exciting projects to a neighborhood that would attractive newcomers.

    • SoCrisp June 19, 2015 at 7:47 am #


    • Paul June 22, 2015 at 7:31 pm #

      I’m not against new people. I am for change. How is building a building “new and exciting” for you? Its just a building — with more people and cars. If you think South Philly is becoming stagnant, then go to NYC. There are plenty of buildings and people there.

      Is it positive to build new buildings? — yes, definitely
      Is it positive to not properly park a new project? — no, definitely not

      Patience is a virtue.— don’t you be short sighted and jump at the first person who wants to rape your neighborhood of it current character. Remember, you moved here because of the livability of the area. It could change overnight with your short sighted approach to development. Love your neighborhood enough to question. Have a vision that goes beyond 1, 3, 5, 10 years.

  8. steve June 18, 2015 at 1:33 pm #

    Cited in the article:

    You gotta love that the opposition to the project was led by a 72-year old man!

    How old would he have been when this project would be finished? What’s the life expectancy of American men?

    Amazing that you would have the hubris to lead opposition on a project that would maybe affect your life, if your lucky, for 10 years…

  9. Anthony June 18, 2015 at 4:57 pm #

    I understand the reasonable response by Tom D, but it is a shame to see such a lousy lot remain untouched for parking yet again. It’s akin to the neighbors on my block that would rather have a tree-less street than to improve the QOL of everyone because they don’t want to deal with trees when opening their car doors.

    The automobile made America, and it will undo America in the same stride. Ridiculous.

  10. Christine June 19, 2015 at 1:57 pm #

    I wish we could keep a running tab of every development project that had a huge fight over parking and which ultimately got built so we could track just how much the sky did fall afterwards. From my recollection, people lost their minds over parking at St. Marons’s and Wharton Lofts, and both have been up and running for years and I’ve yet to hear specific complaints due to them.

    • Chris June 20, 2015 at 8:57 pm #

      What the hell happens next? I mean wtf could possibly happen here now? I can’t see anything other than Pat’s / Geno’s offering to buy this as land grab………be careful what youwish for

  11. Lou_1000 June 22, 2015 at 8:11 am #

    What happens next? Easy, you build to cheap-a$$ homes and rent them out as Section 8. Guaranteed income from the government.
    Nobody in their right mind would PAY real money to live on that block.

    • Paul June 22, 2015 at 7:37 pm #

      Those houses go for plenty!! (“real money”)

      He could build 4-6 houses at $400,000 – $600,000 each. Instead of $500,000 – $750,000 per year in rent — make him bite the bullet and build homes

      • Lou_1000 June 23, 2015 at 8:29 am #

        @Paul: you clearly are full of BS. Nobody in there right mind would pay anywhere near $400K to live next to Pat’s Steaks. What you’re going to get, like it or not, is cheap-a$$ homes, with low-rent residents.

        Further evidence that you’re a complete liar is that if you lived near BOK you’d know there is always plenty of parking around the school. Especially 8xx Mifflin.

        I live a block off 1600 E.Passyunk and parking is not a problem.

        • Maria June 26, 2015 at 9:55 am #

          Clearly you don’t look at real estate in that neighborhood. My grandparent’s house is worth 500,000 around the corner from this. A new home will be worth just the same if not more. I’m not saying I would ever pay this but why don’t you check out before you excuse people of being liars. If you live on 1600 block of passyunk and you don’t have a parking issue, ever, you are the liar here.

          • Lou_1000 June 26, 2015 at 1:13 pm #

            @ Maria, get reading glasses. I did not say ON Passyunk Ave.
            As for 8xx Wharton, there’s an abandoned house there, has been for years. Lovely, especially when combined with trash from Pat’s/Genos. How’s the smell? All those late-night customers and no bathrooms… Summer time and public urination are a great combo.

  12. George June 24, 2015 at 9:50 am #

    I think everyone needs to step back and look at this issue with a clear view of the economics involved, because a lack of such considerations is the cause of this mess. And the problem is very simple. The parking is underpriced. What happens when something is so cheap that people demand more of it than there is supply? You get a shortage. That’s what we have. And there is a solution. Start pricing the street parking at something closer to the market rate.

    But even without sensible pricing policies, which I realize are politically problematic, I think natural forces have their own way of restricting the demand for parking spaces. Even if people are not paying for a street space with money, when parking gets so tight that folks are forced to circle around for half an hour looking for a space, or forgo a trip because of the difficulty of finding a place to park upon returning, or must arrange their schedules so as not to have to be parking at peak times, those are real economic costs. The commenters who have made the “don’t have a car” suggestion have weighed those costs, and concluded that for them the costs outweigh the benefits of car ownership. I think there has to be a saturation point, where the inconvenience of trying to park is so great that additional development is not going to generate net additional demand. Based on how bad the situation is now, I would think we are probably at that point already, and so not allowing this building probably did nothing to help the parking problem.

    Also, I recommend everyone ready Donald Shoup’s book:

    • SoCrisp June 24, 2015 at 2:58 pm #


  13. kate July 1, 2015 at 5:46 pm #

    Parking is a B**TCH in the area of Geno’s steaks! 11th and federal to be exact. I know because I live there. Like Maria, it takes me at least a half an hour to park when I get home at night. And God forbid I move my car on a Sunday, I end up parking down near the Acme if I’m lucky!
    Also, Lou you need to look into what real estate in the neighborhood , your own neighborhood is going for and you will find that Maria is pretty up to date on her knowledge.
    You not only need glasses, you need an education on real estate in South Philadelphia.

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