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What's Happening in:  Hawthorne 

ZBA votes in favor of Blatstein’s 32-story Broad and Washington project, then takes back decision

UPDATE: Councilman Kenyatta Johnson has introduced a bill calling for a moratorium on construction at Broad and Washington. More from Philly mag.


Despite all of the opposition surrounding Bart Blatstein’s Broad and Washington project, the development received approval for the necessary zoning variances by the Zoning Board of Adjustment. But apparently that decision was made too soon.


When the ZBA hearing was held on April 27, a decision was not reached that same day because of the “excessive information” presented. It was said at that time that two additional weeks were needed to decide if the project would be granted the variances needed to move forward. Since it has only been a week since the initial hearing, the ZBA has reportedly taken back their approval and will reconvene and announce once two weeks are up.

Philly Mag previously reported that community members who attended the ZBA meeting in April expressed concerns about the project, but “zoning board chairman Jim Moylan tried to limit their comments to the two issues before the board: the above-ground parking garage and the retail uses on the roof deck.”

Here’s what the Inquirer has to say about the ZBA’s approval:

The Zoning Board of Adjustment voted to grant the project the waivers it needed to be built as planned, said Steve Cobb, chief of staff for City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, in whose district the site is located.

And here’s the additional information from Philly Mag on the decision being taken back:

A source who remained until the end of the meeting to hear another case later reported that shortly before that last case, the board members recused themselves, then came back and announced that they had to vacate the earlier vote because their earlier vote to continue Blatstein’s case for two weeks had to stand.

Criticism of this project has come from the Inquirer’s architecture critic, the Design Advocacy Group and much of the nearby community when presented with the plans at Hawthorne Empowerment Coalition meetings.

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3 Responses to ZBA votes in favor of Blatstein’s 32-story Broad and Washington project, then takes back decision

  1. Alex May 5, 2016 at 9:31 am #

    that headline was an emotional rollercoaster for me.

  2. James May 5, 2016 at 12:32 pm #

    ZBA is in a pickle. Blatstein has done everything and is legally entitled to the permits. One thing ZBA can do is refuse them and watch Blatstein go to court. At the courthouse, judge may order ZBA to release permit which could trigger further appeals all the way to the State Supreme Court or order both Blatstein and ZBA to enter into mediation. Issue is if Blatstein’s lenders have no problem with the design and are willing to finance the project without any catches, then what does the ZBA have to do with appeasing neighbors who are screaming to the moon?

    Most likely compromise may well be Blatstein’s agreeing to put commercial space on ground floor and have the vacant second floor available for either more apartments, or a health club for residents or any other business.

    Bottom line, neighbors should know that Blatstein is legally able to get permits but ZBA wants to be politically correct which is not their job to do at all.

    • tjt May 5, 2016 at 2:57 pm #

      i don’t think that’s an accurate representation of the ZBA’s power. Specifically, Blatstein does not just need permits, he is requesting two “special exceptions” to the zoning for the lot (the above ground parking and the 4th floor retail). The ZBA has specific rules on when a special exception should or should not be given. Those include him proving that the exceptions will not cause specific harms, including “inconsistency with the comprehensive plan” (above ground parking) and “general detrimental impacts on the neighborhood” (also the basis of many complaints).

      Just because you go through the motions does not mean you get special exceptions. It means you get heard. if the ZBA believes that the nearly unanimous complaints of the neighbors are legitimate, they are not only within their rights, but arguably duty-bound to not grant the special exceptions.

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