Agreement on 30 W. Highland development

by Walt Maguire
Posted 7/1/21

After more than six months of stalemate, neighbors and owners have reached an agreement on a design for 30 W. Highland Avenue.

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Agreement on 30 W. Highland development

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After more than six months of stalemate, neighbors and owners have reached an agreement on a design for 30 W. Highland Avenue.

At a meeting of the Philadelphia Zoning Board of Adjustments last Wednesday, June 23, Carl Primavera, representing property owner Henry C. O’Reilly, announced that agreement had been reached. Henry Clinton, representing the West Highland Neighbors group, noted the long process it had taken to reach this moment.  “It’s been arduous, it’s been tortuous, but we’ve crossed the finish line.” 30 W. Highland Neighbors had grown to over 225 members since the development was announced in September 2020. Negotiations had continued up to shortly before the ZBA hearing.

The ZBA expressed their intent to vote in favor but postponed their vote to June 30, in order to process the paperwork on the revised plan and a final L&I review. As of July 1 the vote was still pending but was expected to pass.

Beth Wright, on behalf of the 30 W. Highland Neighbors, issued a group statement: "This was a real challenge, but we achieved a better-designed building than what was originally proposed or approved by the CHCA land use process. In this we’re incredibly grateful to architect Matt Millan, whom we engaged to mediate design/technical communications. The 4th floor of unit one (facing West Highland) is recessed enough to feel less imposing, the front looks more residential, and the western facade has a deep indent between its two middle units to provide some relief from the monotony of six units with six, two-car garages.  As important, the owner also agreed to the neighbors’ operating provisos. As soon as he sends us outstanding documentation, we will be able to create one enforceable ‘Community Agreement’ that will be registered with the Chestnut Hill Community Association and run concurrently with the deed.”

Changes to the proposed townhouses focused on the sight lines along Highland Avenue: The top floor of the first unit, facing Highland, would be set back 8 feet, and the balcony 3 feet on either side. In addition, a gap will be added between the third and fourth units in the main block of six townhouses, to provide a more airy configuration. Primavera indicated there were also some new terms and conditions in the agreement.

Lawrence McEwen, architect for the development, said the ground floor will be continuous, as in previous configurations, but above the garages the 10-foot gap at the second- and third-floor levels will break up the perception of a massive row and allow better views both for the neighbors and from the balconies of the new townhouses.

E.B. O’Reilly & Associates has occupied the 1904 building since 1971, but decided to move, a decision accelerated by the pandemic. McEwen estimated construction could begin by Spring 2022, barring further issues. Henry O’Reilly has said he intends to move into one of the townhouses.

This is an update to the story in the July 1 print edition of the Local.

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