by Wesley Ratko

Work begins on the SCH playing field project (Photo by Pete Mazzaccaro)

Springside Chestnut Hill Academy’s plans to transform a playing field on its campus won support of the Chestnut Hill Community Association’s Land Use Planning and Zoning Committee, which voted to support the school’s requests for a number of variances, paving the way for the project to proceed.

Representing Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, trustee Henry O’Reilly explained that the school is replacing its existing aluminum bleachers with a permanent building that will feature bathrooms, locker rooms and a concession area. The concession area would not provide a kitchen facility but simply a place from which refreshments could be sold.

The plans also call for a “tennis pavilion” and a new expanded parking lot. The pavilion will replace an existing metal storage shed and several portable toilets now on the field. The parking lot, which is partially paved and partially gravel, would be repaved entirely and expanded in size. The school also plans to regrade portions of the field.

According to O’Reilly, all of the improvement plans presented have received storm water management approval from the Philadelphia Water Department.

The new bleacher building would provide seating for 30 additional people beyond current seating capacity and would feature a stone façade. The tennis pavilion will feature a stone and wood façade and also provide restroom facilities.

“The buildings are a great improvement over what is currently there,” said committee member Larry McEwen.

O’Reilly said neighbors were averse to overhead lighting of the field, so it was removed from prior versions of the plan. According to O’Reilly, there are no plans to install any overhead lighting and no plans to host nighttime events. The only illumination planned for the site is the scoreboard, which will be relocated from its current location to face away from nearby residences.

Also, as part of this project, 24 new trees will be planted along Willow Grove Avenue and around the property to Cherokee Street, and sidewalks will be installed along Willow Grove Avenue. Given the stormwater treatments planned for the site, the neighbors have approved of the plan “with enthusiasm.” It is hoped that these improvements will help reduce stormwater runoff from the site.

“All stormwater will be captured and treated on-site,” O’Reilly said. In the event of a larger storm, any overflow would be channeled into a storm pipe. The school has been working with both the Philadelphia Cricket Club and the Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields.

Springside is considering the use of permeable pavement for the parking lot, but will have to consider cost when making their decision. Permeable (or porous) pavement allows rain water to trickle through to the ground, but is more expensive than traditional pavement, which prevents water from permeating the ground and instead runs off.

Since 2009 the Philadelphia Water Department has charged non-residential properties a stormwater utility fee based on the ratio of impervious surface area to gross property area. Properties with more paving are charged more while credits are given for so-called green practices, such as porous pavement and green roofs, are credited. O’Reilly told the committee that the city wouldn’t credit for permeable pavement,

“The more you can do, the better,” said Landis.

O’Reilly told him that the permit from the water department has been approved for an impervious pavement on the parking lot. If the variances are approved by the City, construction of the parking lot will begin sometime in late summer. Construction of the bleachers and the tennis pavilion would not begin until late fall.

The committee unanimously approved a motion to support the variances, provided the school supplies letters of support from the near-neighbors, makes an effort to employ permeable pavement in the parking lot, and continues their effort to extend sidewalks on both sides of Willow Grove Avenue.

Update on Magarity-Fresh Market project

Representatives from Bowman Properties presented the latest developments in their ongoing design of the proposed Fresh Market project at 8200 Germantown Ave. to the Land Use Planning and Zoning Committee. Charles Keefer, chief architect for Bowman Properties, showcased changes made to both the site plan and the building elevations since the last presentation to the LUPZ on May 3.

Keefer was joined by project architects Richard Gelber (sph3) and Stan Runyan (Runyan and Associates). Together, the three walked the committee through an updated site plan, describing stormwater management elements of the design that include rain gardens placed at strategic points in the parking lot, a planted green roof for the Fresh Market building, underground stormwater storage beneath the market building, and limited permeable pavement in the parking lot. Many of these elements are conceptual and have yet to be fully fleshed out.

Committee member Joyce Lenhardt, who leads the technical subcommittee that has been working with Bowman throughout the design phase of the project, was disappointed with the amount of information presented to the committee. With nothing to report on Bowman’s efforts to coordinate with PennDOT about the proposed traffic signal at the corner of Hartwell and Germantown, and few details about the building’s “materiality,” Lenhardt expressed her disappointment.

“This [presentation] should give us a little more detail,” she said.

She also said there were elements agreed to in discussion that didn’t appear on the presented site plan, including details about the garage door and screening of mechanical equipment on the roof. Those elements, Keefer said, would be added onto future iterations.

During the review of the building elevations, committee member John Haak asked about building signage. Gelber said that while preliminary drawings of the building included signage, the focus now is on the building design itself. To avoid any distraction, signs were removed from the current set of building drawings.

“Signs need to be part of a separate process,” said Gelber.

Review of the rear of the building showed that additional windows have been added to the façade to break up the uniformity of the wall. This prompted a discussion between the architects and the committee about the choice of brick.

“It’s still a lot of brick,” said committee member John Landis. He asked Runyan whether there was any way to include additional elements to relieve the look of solid brick. “You can figure out a way to make it look not so austere,” said Landis.

Committee member Ned Mitinger asked about demolition of the current structure, the former showroom and garage of Magarity Ford. Keefer told him a proposal package would be ready to go out to potential demolition contractors this fall.

The committee thanked the presenters for their efforts but took no formal action.


The LUPZ also unanimously approved the nomination of Ned Mitinger as the new co-chair of the committee to replace John Landis, who is stepping down.