A developer presented his proposal last night for the King of Jeans building at 1843 E. Passyunk Ave. to the East Passyunk Crossing zoning committee. The plan includes 16 apartments – eight one-bedroom units and eight two-bedroom units. That’s a total 24 bedrooms.
The man behind the plan is Andy Kaplan of Rockland Capital, a former real estate attorney turned commercial real estate developer. His past projects include the shopping center anchored by Ikea on Columbus Boulevard and a commercial project anchored by a Lowe’s at 52nd and Jefferson in West Philadelphia, which he said transformed that blighted area.
“Now I’m selectively picking projects that transform neighborhoods,” he said, adding that his goal is to build something awesome. (He was corrected by EPX Board of Directors Co-Chair Joseph Marino, who said his project could “transform that corner – our neighborhood is already awesome.”)
An earlier proposal by developer Max Glass, scrapped a few months ago, would have been five floors and 55-feet high, including retail space on the first floor, office space on the second floor and nine apartments on the three remaining floors with a roof deck.
The existing structure would be demolished under Kaplan’s plan, and the new building would be still be five stories, but 59 feet tall. There would not be a roof deck.
The ground floor would consist of 2,980 square feet of retail space. Kaplan said his first choice would be a stable retailer who’d be “a strong anchor,” rather than a restaurant. He has two possible retailers in mind, he said, but declined to name them.
Floors two through five would be apartments – four units per floor. He said having a mix of one and two bedrooms (he wants eight of each) give renters more options. They would have stainless steel appliances, granite counters, central air and hardwood floors.
Kaplan’s architect displayed Glass’ rendering at the meeting – Kaplan said his building would look similar.
The issue of parking was raised, given that there could be as many as two dozen new people living in the parking-scarce neighborhood. David Goldfarb, chair of the EPX zoning committee, asked if Kaplan would consider putting a proviso in a certain number of leases saying the tenants wouldn’t be allowed to get parking permits, and Kaplan agreed.
The tenants’ garbage would be kept inside in a trash storage room until trash pickup day, Kaplan said.
Asked if he would consider converting the apartments to condominiums at some point, Kaplan said he was open to it, but it wasn’t likely.
As for the iconic King of Jeans sign, Kaplan said he would ask the neighborhood for ideas.
“Someone mentioned that a museum may want it,” he said. “I would be happy to donate it to something like that.” Here are some other suggestions.
The old King of Jeans building is practically right next to another project that the EPX zoning board heard in July. Under that plan, proposed by developer Steven Savitz, the old Mancini Catering building at 1840-44 S. Camac St. would be demolished to make way for seven single-family homes.
Kaplan and his architect said they would expect to break ground on the King of Jeans building in six months to a year, which Goldfarb said may or may not overlap with Savitz’s project.
Goldfarb took a straw poll at the end of the meeting. Five community members voted in favor of Kaplan’s project, and three voted against it. (Some residents in attendance didn’t vote.)
He explained that the EPX zoning board has an advisory role in all proposed real estate developments – the city’s zoning board of adjustment is the only body that has the authority to make decisions. The EPX zoning board would send a letter to the ZBA reflecting the neighborhood’s opinion of the project, which the ZBA would take into consideration when deciding whether or not to approve the plan.
What do you think of sixteen apartments – a total of 24 bedrooms – in that space?
– Jennifer Lawson, @byjenlawson