by Diane Fiske
The Philadelphia Zoning Board of Adjustment approved a plan to replace an 89-year-old daycare center at Germantown and West Abington avenues in Chestnut Hill with a modern, four-story, mixed-use building at their meeting on June 19.
Attending the Zoning Board hearing were developer Mark Greenberg, as well as Matthew Monroe, the lawyer for the project, and architect Theresa Aldamlouji of Aldamlouji and Parker Architects of Ambler.
In nine months of meetings leading to the Zoning Board hearing, the project had received the conditional approval of the Chestnut Hill Community Association’s Land Use, Planning and Zoning Committee, as well as that of the Chestnut Hill Conservancy.
The building at 8100 Germantown Ave. will house a retail business on the first floor and two apartments on the top three floors. The second floor will a be two-bedroom apartment, while the combined third and fourth floors will be devoted to a two-story, three bedroom unit.
In the rear of the new building, two parking spaces will be provided. And only one tree will be removed.
Parking and tree removal had been the subject of concern voiced by neighbors at the local Chestnut Hill meetings.
Aldamlouji said the first floor in the original building had little light, and the design calls for “lots of light” in windows on the front of the building and along the side.
“The building would open to the street with two doors on the first floor,” she said. “We tried in our plans to be respectful to neighboring houses.”
The site has a long and varied history. The original building, which started as a public school in 1930, had been a daycare center for many years and had been vacant for two years.
“It is a strange shaped site,” Aldamlouji said, “The new building will measure 30 feet on the Germantown Avenue and 79 on Abington.”
According to the design, the building will have a capacity of 8,500 square feet on the four floors.
The exterior will be brick, with Wissahickon schist at the base and ornamental railings on the side.
Most interestingly, the view of the building from the side will appear to be a series of steps with a setback of eight feet on the second floor and 3.6 feet on the fourth.
The second-floor setback could serve as a deck or an outdoor garden.
Whimsical and interesting features include a round window on West Abington Avenue above an arched door.
“I think it would be good for business in the area,” Greenberg said after the decision.
Streetscape is a monthly column about architecture, urban planning and design.