by Kevin Dicciani

The Chestnut Hill Community Association’s Development Review Committee unanimously voted May 17 to support Woodmere Art Museum’s plan to install a stormwater management system on its property at Germantown Avenue and East Bells Mill Road.

William Valerio, CEO of Woodmere, presented the project to the DRC on Tuesday night, calling it a “major landscape renovation.” He said Woodmere received a variance refusal due to the steepness in slope. The project, priced at $1.5 million, contains three important elements, Valerio said.

The first is the installation of a few monumental sculptures on the property, including Harry Bertoia’s bronze fountain, “Free Interpretation of Plant Forms,” which was previously installed outside the former Civic Center in West Philadelphia. Valerio said the sculptures will “change the tone of the Woodmere landscape and really announce the creative nature of the experience at the museum.”

The second aspect involves replacing the existing parking lot. At the moment, Valerio said, the driveway causes stormwater runoff issues for the museum and surrounding properties. The plans call for the parking surface to be replaced with permeable, state-of-the-art, stormwater management elements as well as the installation of underground tanks that will assist with runoff. Valerio said the lot will not be expanded for parking.

The third part deals with stormwater management on the rest of the property. In addition to the new parking lot and underground tanks, Valerio said Woodmere will install an infiltration facility, a bioswale that will filter and remove pollutants, and a new stormwater sewer. He also said they will plant trees and shrubs to aid with runoff.

Another part of the design calls for the replacement of the current lights in the parking lot. The new fixtures will have LED lights rather than halides, which will reduce the brightness from 48,000 to 26,000 lumens. The new light poles will also be lower in height, he said.

The project, Valerio said, will require removing 10 trees from the property, none of which are rare or historically significant. He said Woodmere will be planting a full variety of trees, from sycamores to white pines. A wall of evergreens also will be planted as a privacy screen between the museum and nearby neighbors.

Valerio said Woodmere hoped to begin construction in August, which should last about two months. While they are constructing the new parking lot, visitors will be able to park on the lawn on top of reinforced grass.

The DRC approved the variance with a unanimous 5-0 vote.

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