After nearly two years of vacancy, the property on 8100 Germantown Ave. is on track to be demolished and replaced with a multi-unit housing structure. (Photo by Lilly Soroko)

by Brendan Sample

Though a final resolution is still forthcoming, the proposed multi-unit housing complex on 8100 Germantown Ave. has taken another step toward receiving the support of the Chestnut Hill Community Association. The CHCA’s Land Use, Planning and Zoning Committee, along with the Chestnut Hill Conservancy’s Historic District Advisory Committee, voted to conditionally approve the updated plans at its latest meeting on Thursday, June 6.

Representing the project at the meeting were Mark Greenberg, developer; Theresa Aldamlouji, architect, and Matthew Monroe, attorney. Though the plans for the structure have undergone several changes, the most recent of which were presented on Thursday, Stewards of 8100, LLC, which owns the property, is still dedicated to this redevelopment.

In addition to the housing units, the plan also calls for retail usage on the first floor, though a specific business has yet to be chosen. With the property zoned as CMX-1, both usages would be permitted under current Philadelphia zoning codes. There are other elements of the project, however, that came under question at the meeting.

Though the developers are planning to install two new parking spaces as required by the zoning code, there is still concern over a potential lack of overall parking for the new building. Several neighbors were on hand to express similar issues, including fears regarding street elevation and surrounding street trees. While the plan only calls for the removal and replanting of one tree next to the property, the developers also acknowledged that there is only so much they can do regarding issues such as parking.

“It’s not going away, and there’s not much we can do about it,” Monroe said. “We’re working with the space that we have, and this is where we are. I think that this represents the best efforts of listening to the community.”

Beyond questions raised by neighbors, members of both committees continued to express their concerns over the lack of a setback on the top floor and what kind of building materials would be used. The developers had actually met with several committee members on Monday, June 3 in an attempt to work out some of these details before the formal LUPZ meeting. While they initially felt that Monday’s meeting had ended on a positive note, both sides realized that they were still not quite on the same page.

Greenberg expressed his frustration over the process at one point during the meeting, saying that he felt “at a loss” to create a design that everyone would approve. After further discussing the matter with Monroe and Aldamlouji, however, Greenberg ultimately said that he would agree to a setback of three feet on the top floor. Elements of the project such as building materials and building color will be subject to further review.

After full deliberations, both the LUPZ and HDAC voted to support the updated plan on the condition that the aspects they discussed be upheld. The two sides will continue deliberating until the developers’ hearing before the Zoning Board of Adjustment on June 19.

The other agenda item for the meeting was regarding a variance for 24 W . Hampton Rd., where a fire-damaged home had been recently demolished. While a new house will eventually be built on the now-vacant space, the steep slope of the property was unintentionally disturbed during the demolition, leading to a zoning refusal from the city.

Attorney Bill O’Brien was on hand to represent the property owners and explain that they are currently only seeking a variance to retroactively revoke the city’s notice about the steep slope. With the demolition itself having already been approved by the city, the committee voted to support this particular variance, though the Development Review Committee will also look over the issue at its next meeting on Tuesday, June 18.

The next LUPZ meeting is currently set for Thursday, July 4, at the Chestnut Hill Hospital. Brendan Sample can be reached at brendan@chestnuthilllocal.com or 215-248-8819.

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