Another apartment building proposed for Columbus Sqaure, this one on the city-owned parking lot

UPDATE: Neighbors got riled up about parking at a meeting to present this proposal.

The city-owned parking lot on 12th Street across from Columbus Square Park could become an apartment building if a proposal being floated next week comes to fruition.

This lot is right across Columbus Square Park.
This lot is right across Columbus Square Park.

The Passyunk Square Civic Association’s zoning committee will hear an informational proposal Tuesday night for a five-story building to rise on the site of the lot. The project would be sandwiched between the firehouse at Reed Street and the Wharton Street Lofts, which just started leasing units in the former Annunciation School at Wharton Street.

The address on the agenda is 1148 Wharton St., the same as Wharton Street Lofts, which led us to believe the project would be completed by the same developer, Leo Addimando of Alterra Property.

“The city has asked us to meet with the neighbors and get their feedback, input and conceptual approval, before they will proceed with the sales process,” Addimando said.

He said that he couldn’t give away too much about what he proposes other than that:

  • The new building will not be higher than the school next door
  • It will maintain most of the “free” parking that the neighbors now enjoy
  • It will have residential units above parking
  • It may have additional parking for those units and retail, depending on what the neighbors want

“We will show a few versions of this plan and see what people say,” he said.

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

City records say the parking lot is part of a single parcel referred to as 1100 Wharton St. that includes the fire station next door and the police auto repair shop behind it (the building with the smokestack). The whole lot is zoned ICMX, or industrial commercial mixed use, which allows a whole host of uses by right – except residences. That means the developer will have to get zoning variances for residential use and for splitting that parcel from the rest of the lot.

We’ll be sure to keep you posted.

28 thoughts on “Another apartment building proposed for Columbus Sqaure, this one on the city-owned parking lot

  • February 5, 2014 at 12:18 pm

    That’s a lot of residential density on the east side of the park. Parking is rapidly becoming a nightmare with all of the visiting dog walkers and ball players. The park visitors and the local residents need that extra parking and I highly doubt a private developer, who is looking to maximize profits, will keep parking on his property free to the general public.

    • February 5, 2014 at 2:31 pm

      Did you not read the article? I assume that since it’s city property, then can make any deed restrictions they want, including maintaining municipal parking, as the article said.

      • February 5, 2014 at 3:56 pm

        Actually David, I did read the article. Sadly, our city officials are rarely forward thinking enough to do just that. They more frequently decide to go along with what larger developers want because they just want the development or there is something in it for them. Hopefully this project, if it happens, will prove me wrong. I would be pleasantly surprised.

        I have the luxury of biking to work in the city. I walk almost everywhere i can and didn’t get a driver’s license until I was 35. So I am the last person who is tied to four wheels. However, my partner works in the burbs where public transportation in not am option. I have a friend who is a senior who lives in the neighborhood and needs a car. I have never had much sympathy for neighbors who drive two blocks to the Acme for a quart of milk, but recognize that some people need access to a car even in the city.

        That said, if they just developed Columbus Square Park with townhouses, that have garages, we wouldn’t have to deal with the visiting dog walkers, sports enthusiasts and other folks that drive over and take up all the parking spaces and new homeowners wouldn’t need street parking. Win/win! Who needs open green space in South Philly anyway? It’s like the automobile….overrated…and development will definitely drive the housing values up.

        • February 6, 2014 at 8:05 am

          Are you seriously a proponent of getting rid of the park and developing it with townhouses??!! That is nuts. You want a city with developments everywhere and no parks or green spaces.
          My God, I can’t even believe you exist. Also, how do townhouse with garages help a parking issue? People use there garages for storage and park on the street next to the garage. This takes away 2 parking spaces for 1 car.
          To all those people who say “get rid of your car, you live in a city”. Try carry 1,000lbs of tools to different jobs all throughout the city. I guess I could lug them onto the bus every morning but it would have to take up half of the bus.
          We have one of the worst public transportation systems in the country. If we had a transportation overhaul with new trains, then you might have a point. Until then,
          you don’t

          • February 6, 2014 at 11:15 am

            Couple things: 1) While Philadelphians love to bash SEPTA, it’s actually an award-winning transit service, and they do a perfectly good job.
            2) No one has ever suggested that people who require a truck for work trade it in for a pushcart. That point has already been made in countless P’yunk Post arguments about parking.

          • February 6, 2014 at 1:29 pm

            Thank you DS for helping to see my point of view. The idea that development of any sort is always good for the community is a fallacy…..whether it be the re-development of park space or the public parking lots that support them. Re-purposing an abandoned school makes good sense. I supported the conversion of Annunciation. The idea that 45 new apartment units in the neighborhood was easier for the community to accept when dedicated parking was introduced.

            What concerns me is that dedicated parking does not come included with the price of a monthly rental ($1,000 – $2400 a month) but is an extra $125. A free municipal parking lot right next door might prove to be competition for the rental spaces at the Lofts. If the developer decided to offer a free parking space with rental, I might feel differently about the new project.

            Now add an additional say 20 to 40 apartment units right next door with parking spaces that might be rented by the residents of the Lofts for additional cash. Why would they rent a parking space, when they could just take a free “community” space right under their apartment? It doesn’t make sense for a developer trying to rent parking spaces and it doesn’t help residents and park visitors who are now competing with 100 plus new residents in a one block space.

            With the potential of 70 to 100 new rental units in a one block area and park enthusiasts who drive from all over South Philly to use the park, an additional multi-unit building that takes parking away is not a good thing. This area of South Philly is hardly lacking in density.

            DavidG, I don’t view this as an argument,t but good healthy debate that i am sure will continue at the community meetings. I hope you will attend and share your point of view. I think this website is great and very informative, but I have a habit of not believing everything I read.

        • February 6, 2014 at 9:26 am

          I’m not going to argue with someone who pretends not to be able to tell the difference between developing a municipal parking lot–while preserving the public parking–and developing a park.

  • February 5, 2014 at 12:39 pm

    There are now MAJOR parking concerns in this neighborhood. If Acme is now towing, and this lot is lost, where are people who actually live here and own a car supposed to park? What about visitors? Parking has always been tight and it is very unlikely that the parking included in this development will be accessible to the public. I am all for progress but this is getting ridiculous…

  • February 5, 2014 at 12:43 pm

    Here we go again with the parking…

  • February 5, 2014 at 1:13 pm

    Subway a block away and a bus line right by the park. Learn to live without a car. I’ve done it for 25 years.

    • February 5, 2014 at 3:25 pm

      Exactly! It’s not like our neighborhood is wanting of public transportation options. You can get just about anywhere without a car. There are also several carshare options within the EPX area for those days you gotta get to Ikea. Get off the gasoline, South Philly.

      • February 6, 2014 at 1:03 am

        Thank you!

  • February 5, 2014 at 2:04 pm

    Parking isn’t that bad…I have a car with no parking permit and I manage to find parking relatively easily on-street. May not be right in front of my unit but I live in a city…I expect to walk often.

  • February 5, 2014 at 3:51 pm

    Does anyone know what gym they are putting next door?

    • February 5, 2014 at 6:34 pm

      24/7 Fitness, a chain with its first Philly location. I’m 99 percent certain

  • February 5, 2014 at 4:36 pm

    Parking wha wha wha more density is exactly what the neighborhood needs. I never have a problem with parking. Stop crying

    • February 5, 2014 at 6:40 pm

      Eyeroll. Article says public parking will be preserved.

      • February 6, 2014 at 10:25 am

        Parking is always the issue and while it’s easy to get around IN the city, it isn’t for those who work outside of the city or often travel outside of the city – so, it’s understandable.

        However, given that the article states they are looking to preserve at least some aspect of the parking, you really can’t complain about parking issues.

        Re: redeveloping Columbus Square Park w/ townhomes…I’m going to assume that was sarcasm. Please, tell me it was sarcasm.

  • February 5, 2014 at 6:18 pm

    “before they will proceed with the sales process”

    I dont recall ever seeing this listed on the City’s site as available for sale. Was the lot ever open to a competitive bid process?

    • February 6, 2014 at 1:04 am

      Stew, This is the part that bothers me.

      • February 6, 2014 at 4:16 pm

        Me too. Greatly. And I think a lot more people should be bothered and be asking the same question. With the City constantly crying poor, I’d like to think they’d put this out for a transparent, competitive bid to maximize the value.

  • February 6, 2014 at 11:40 am

    What about the parking? = Think of the children!

    Parking is plentiful, unless you’re too lazy to walk a 1/2 block.

  • February 7, 2014 at 6:57 pm

    As amusing as all of this sniping is, it’s all heat and no light at all. Regardless what side of the argument you claim, more residences means more people means more taxing of the currently available infrastructure. Considering this already rapidly growing area is served by only one wholly inadequate supermarket, one bedraggled pharmacy and an unkempt Dunkin Donuts, worsening the already inadequate parking situation is hardly a recipe for successful or welcome integration into the neighborhood. If these were the only issues, it would already be more than enough to concern everyone who lives, works & traffics in the area.
    Adding to the concerns is city government’s demonstrated mismanagement of resources and tendency toward backroom deals that could leave area residents with not only significantly reduced parking options, but also with developer concerned only with lining his pockets and not giving back to the community he’s joined (by proxy of his new 40-100 residences). Plainly if it is the city’s decision to sell off this parcel of land the only reasonable and honest way to do it is to open up the bidding process to all comers and to be as transparent as possible.
    The reality is that every resident in Passyunk East & West (whether they have a car or not) has a vested interest in the redevelopment of any spaces adding this much capacity to the area. And as the common thread in these comments tends toward community responsibility, it would seem that any business person would be eager to openly and honestly engage the community, speak to its concerns and be a good corporate citizenship. Any business person, who shies away from this, should be suspect and any government that allows it should be challenged.
    So why don’t we all show up, hear the proposal, voice our concerns without the useless name calling and pointless misrepresentation. If we can’t come to a compromise on what we want to do as a community with a parking lot…there is no hope for the real issues. And we will all be equally responsible for the outcome.

  • February 9, 2014 at 8:34 am

    Thank you all for your comments. I look forward to the public meeting this Tuesday where everyone is welcome to voice their opinions through an open dialogue. In advance of this meeting, I want to make a few points:

    1. Our proposal WILL preserve most if not all of the currently available FREE public parking

    2. For those who have taken the time to survey the lot (as we have), you will notice that approximately half the cars in there rarely if ever move, and a number of them are likely commercial vehicles, some of which seem to be broken down. Hardly a fair use of free public parking if you ask me.

    3. My partners and I, although not from the EP community, have already amply demonstrated our commitment to it through extensive civic engagement and financial contributions. We already donated $25,000 to the Jackson School and have committed another $75,000 to Jackson to build a playground this coming summer. Please find me one other example of a private developer with that same level of civic minded was who is active in the EP community.

    4. The process for purchasing this lot from the City will be transparent. The first step is civic input. Then appraisals will follow. Whether or not there is a public auction is not my decision, but rather the City’s.

    5. The City is always looking for revenue to support schools and other underfunded programs. Right now this lot costs money to maintain and does not provide the City with any revenue. Our proposal would preserve neighborhood parking, pay the city a fair market price for the land, and create ongoing tax revenues for the school district and the City. This lot will eventually be sold and I doubt that the next “developer” will try as hard us we will to create a win-win-win.

    6. At Annunciation we chose to NOT include parking in the price of the apartments because why should residents without cars pay for parking they don’t want. So far we have 33 leased apartments and 9 leased parking spaces. As promised, we will soon be opening up the parking lot for non residents who want to pay $125/mo for a spot.

    7. Yes we are in discussions with a reputable gym operator to open up a gym at the old Annunciation. The prospective tenant is a franchisee for Anytime Fitness. It will be a high quality and affordably priced operation and should provide another amenity for EP.

    Again I look forward to Tuesday’s meeting and I am always reachable directly at I have engaged with, met and otherwise spoken to many members of the EP community over the past 18 months and believe that our project at the old Annunciation ( is demonstrating our ability to be an engaged and respectful part of the EP community for years to come.

  • February 9, 2014 at 9:00 pm

    The only reason this bothers me is that there is a park across the street and people visiting the park might not all be from the area. People use the field, the playground etc.

    While it is nice you intend to leave free parking available for the public, with more apartments and Annunciation next door it will become more limited.

  • February 10, 2014 at 4:52 pm

    I honestly cannot believe people are saying parking is not a problem. I have lived on the 1200 block of Wharton for close to 27 years. When I first moved in and up until the past few years parking was not a problem. But now it is. I have driven around (a wide area) for as long as 20 minutes trying to find a place to park often ending up blocks from my house.
    As for SEPTA being reliable, give me a break. I’ve often found myself walking to Center City before a bus comes. If I want to stay in Center City late, the subway stops at midnight. And being a victim of violent crime, I do not relish the idea of walking back from Center City late at night.
    And the arguments not to have a car don’t hold water. I often travel outside the city.
    As for Wharton Lofts saying parking will remain free for residents of the neighborhood, what guarantees are they going to give?

  • February 12, 2014 at 12:18 pm

    How did the meeting go last night?
    Also, for those who are referencing the intensive use of the park by “outsiders” it is worth noting that all of this development would be taking place in the context of a park that is about to undergo a pretty massive transformation that will remove one playing field entirely and shrink the other to kid-size only. That will likely relieve some of the pressure from the use it has been getting over the past few years. (Also… not sure how the dog walkers create a parking issue… no one is driving their dog to this park to let it run around.)
    Leo, if you’re still monitoring this thread, do you have data on how many of your 33 lessees at Wharton Street Lofts own a car? It would strengthen your argument if you could say that the 9 leased parking spaces are the only 9 of the 33 who own cars. But even if just 5 or 6 more own cars and park them on the street that would still just be 14 or 15 out of 33… pretty much in line with the .5 spaces per residence that seems appropriate (at MOST) for these new large developments. It would also give some data points to support the argument that many (myself included) have made about how those who are choosing to move here have already considered the parking issue and if they couldn’t make their lives work without a car then they would not have chosen to move to South Philly.
    One last point about the lot in question… I’ve lived two blocks from there for going on six years now. I have never ONCE been able to park in that lot (or the one at 12th/Morris/E. Passyunk for that matter). There are almost always open spots on my own block before there are spots in that lot (i.e. I’ve never had the experience of there being no on-street parking but open space in that lot while I’ve often found on-street while that lot is full.) I would not disagree with Leo’s assessment that most of the cars in there are permanent fixtures and should have been towed out long ago.

  • February 12, 2014 at 12:27 pm

    Oops… now I see the other post. I guess the meeting went as expected.

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