Vote on hold for Greylock proposal

by Carla Robinson
Posted 2/21/24

Two committees on Monday asked for more information before voting on the controversial redevelopment of the Greylock Estate.

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Vote on hold for Greylock proposal


Two committees of the Chestnut Hill Community Association opted to ask for more information before voting on the controversial redevelopment of the Greylock Estate at a Zoom meeting on Monday.

The Land Use and Planning and Zoning (LUPZ), and Design Review Committees of the CHCA made the decision after seeing revised plans for the proposal.

In response to previous complaints, developer Lavi Shenkman of Greylock Development Partners submitted those plans hours before the Monday meeting. The new plan calls for a fourth story addition to be added to the top of the historic mansion while a five-unit building was replaced with a triplex, and a pool house and some covered back porches were eliminated. 

The development team would need zoning permission to add the additional story, install a required septic system into a steep slope and take down and replace some trees. They would also need permission to break some terms of an existing easement on the site, which thus far the Chestnut Hill Conservancy has not said whether or not it would support.

Members of both the CHCA’s Land Use and Planning and Zoning (LUPZ) committee and its Design Review Committee (DRC) said they appreciated the developer’s changes, and agreed to meet again and hold a vote before his scheduled March 27 appearance at the city’s Zoning Board of Adjustment.

Most committee members disliked Shenkman’s proposal to add a fourth story addition to the historic building 209 W. Chestnut Hill Ave., while others questioned the overall size and density.

Matt Rutt, an LUPZ committee member, said he liked that the developer had swapped a multi-family building for a triplex of townhouses, but “I do find the fourth floor addition a little bit jarring visually.”

“I don’t have any problem with the density on the site. I think you’ve done a great job here,” said Craig Schelter, another LUPZ member. “Though I am a bit troubled about the looks of the fourth story addition.”

Some neighbors said they appreciated the changes while others continued to object. 

Mason Barnett, who lives at the top of West Chestnut Hill Avenue near Germantown Avenue said she liked the new proposal. 

“I think it's a great improvement over what we had before, I like the way the buildings have been modified to fit better into the landscape, and as far as traffic goes, – there is so much traffic on that street I cannot believe it will make a tremendous difference,” she said. 

George Zeleznik, head of the Crefeld School, which abuts the Greylock property, said he continues to object. 

“From our perspective the status quo is preferable to the proposed development,” he said, adding that while the property has been neglected “by both the current and former owners” its current condition “does not have a negative effect on our daily operations.”

Brad Bank, a neighbor who has been leading a fight against the proposed development, also continued to oppose the project. “We have heard nothing in the current scheme that is different from the previous schemes,” Bank said. 

Neighbor Camille Peluso said “The beauty of that mansion is in the roofline – I’d hate to see that silhouette obstructed.”

Kimberly Dukes, who lives nearby on Crefeld Street, said she questions their traffic study, and Lisa Mancuso, who also lived on Crefeld, said she also remains opposed to the overall density of the proposal.

“It’s aesthetically very displeasing, it looks like these homes are crammed together and it’s now just a sea of asphalt.”

Tallulah Regan, who lives on Chestnut Hill Avenue, said “I just don’t feel there’s been enough exploration of other options.”

“I am in favor of doing something at Greylock. I really want to save it,” Regan said. “But I strongly believe that this massing is not right. I think the new buildings should be subservient to the main building.”

David Fineman, a lawyer who is representing a group of neighbors who object to the proposal, said the developer has yet to prove why he qualifies for a variance. 

“The law is the law. The developer and his architect are going to have to show that there is a hardship to the land which would not allow it to be developed. And it can't be economic,” Fineman said. 

Set on seven acres bordering Wissahickon Valley Park, Greylock Mansion was built in the early 1900s by a steel magnate who used stone quarried from the grounds to construct the eight-bedroom, nearly 19,000-square-foot home.

The property has been vacant and deteriorating for many years. Assessed at just under $3 million, it was about $1.6 million in debt when it was repossessed in 2004 by lenders, a group known as Greylock Holdings LLC.