By Wesley Ratko
A plan to improve Springside Chestnut Hill Academy’s athletic fields at 585 West Willow Grove Ave., attracted scrutiny from a local labor and ward leader at the Chestnut Hill Community Association’s Development Review Committee meeting Tuesday night.
Springside Chestnut Hill Academy trustee Henry O’Reilly made a presentation to the committee outlining the work, which includes a new bleacher system alongside the football field, a new freestanding tennis pavilion, and an underground stormwater management system, will require three zoning variances. In addition to the construction, some regrading to the site will be done, and a new parking lot will also be constructed.
The proposed bleacher system will be a more permanent structure than what is there presently. According to O’Reilly, the structure will feature a locker room, restrooms, and a concession stand. The proposed trestle structure is intended to mimic the design of the Philadelphia Cricket Club fence across the street.
The tennis pavilion is planned for the center of the athletic complex, away from the current tennis courts. It too will feature restroom facilities and will be handicapped-accessible.
DRC co-chair Larry McEwen asked about the impact of stormwater runoff on surrounding properties. O’Reilly said that the new stormwater management system will actually decrease the amount of water that now comes off the field and impacts neighboring homes and the Philadelphia Cricket Club. Both the near-neighbors and the cricket club have provided their support.
When time came from input from community members in attendance, Louis Agre of Roxborough, Democratic Committee leader of the 21st Ward, claimed that the contractor selected by Springside Chestnut Hill to do the work, lacked several elements typical of a union contractor, such as an apprenticeship program, safety training, and “standard wages.” The contractor was never named.
“We’re very concerned about this,” Agre said.
Agre asked that Springside Chestnut Hill consider the selection of a contractor that is a member of the building trade with a four-year apprenticeship program, safety training, and construction management training. He also asked that the outfit employ local labor from surrounding ZIP codes.
“I don’t know if the project has been awarded yet, but they do not have that kind of workforce,” he said, adding “they do not hire people from this area – the Philadelphia area.”
When asked whether the contract to perform the work had been awarded, O’Reilly stated that while a portion of the project has been bid, the school has yet to sign a contract with a builder.
According to Agre, other area private schools like Germantown Academy, Episcopal Academy, William Penn Charter, and Haverford, all of which are members of the Inter-Academic athletic conference, have hired contractors to do work who are members of the building trade.
Committee member Cynthia Brey said that any decision made by Springside Chestnut Hill regarding who performs the work was outside the purview of the DRC. She asked. However, that outreach materials for future project bidding be distributed to several local contractors. O’Reilly agreed to do so.
The committee unanimously approved support for the three zoning variances needed to complete the work.
8524 Germantown Avenue – Greene Street Consignment expansion
Property owner Sanjiv Jain appeared again before the DRC to present updates to his original proposal to expand the first floor of 8524 Germantown Avenue. Consultation with the Historic District Advisory Committee and the Land Use Planning and Zoning Committee informed the changes.
The plan now calls for a 10 percent reduction in the building footprint and a roof deck.
Patricia Cove, representing the Historic District Advisory Committee, asked that closer attention be paid to improving the façade at the rear of the building. Because a Parking Foundation-owned lot sits behind the building, the rear of the property will be visible to more traffic and deserved more attention, she said.
Cove also asked that Jain get some form of support from neighbor Prudential Fox & Roach. Jain explained that despite several attempts to contact them that they have been “unresponsive.”
“I’m happy to work with the DRC because we’re interacting,” Jain said. “Prudential is not responding to me.”
The committee moved to send the proposal to the Land Use Zoning and Planning Committee.*
The original version of this story incorrectly stated that the variances were approved. They were not.
- Representatives of the Chestnut Hill Community Association presented testimony before the Philadelphia City Planning Commission recently. The PCPC has yet to respond to the CHCA’s request for special consideration as an existing registered community organization or RCO for consultation with developers looking to build in Chestnut Hill. The new zoning code goes into effect on August 22.
- Beginning in August, meetings of the Historic District Advisory Committee and the Traffic Transportation and Parking committee will be held on the same night as the DRC meeting in order to allow applicants to visit all three committees on the same night.
- The next meeting of the Land Use Planning and Zoning committee will be held on July 10th, one week after its usual meeting time, to accommodate the July 4th Holiday.