Central Roxborough Civic Association Meeting Minutes
April 5, 2018
CRCA President Celeste Hardester welcomed new and old participants to the meeting.
The Park Cleanup day originally scheduled for Saturday 4/7 has been postponed until 4/14. On 4/21, some people will also be volunteering at Edling Park on the corner of Shurs and Terrace.
Street Tree applications
are due 5/7 for planting in the fall. The trees are free!
Nick Custodio and Donna Fitzpatrick from City Commissioner Lisa Deeleyís Office reminded those present that there is a primary election coming up on 5/15. The deadline to register to vote prior to this election is 4/16. Every election matters, and every vote counts!
Zoning: 6128 Ridge Avenue (bank building at corner of Ridge & Green)
The equitable owner of the Roxborough Trust Company building at 6128 Ridge Avenue (at the northwest corner of Ridge Avenue and Green Lane) seeks zoning relief to permit the conversion of the existing historically designated bank into a mixed-use commercial and residential redevelopment.
The parcel is zoned CMX-2.5, which mandates commercial space along 100% of the frontage of the building. This zoning district also allows for residential use behind and above the commercial use on the ground floor, and the Ridge Avenue overlay mandates three (3) parking spaces for every ten (10) residential units. For some time, this significant edifice has awaited a revitalization which could spark a transformation of the central commercial corridor along the Ridge.
Developer Elliot Kopel was unable to attend due to a religious commitment, but discussion of the proposed project was led by Attorney Brett Peanasky, Real Estate Broker Dan Histon, and Architect Ray Rola.
- This important 1924 Beaux Arts building is on the Cityís historic registry, which means modifications (particularly to the exterior) require approval of the Historic Commission.
- Mr. Kopel has entered into an Agreement of Sale to purchase the building and intends to refigure the interior to provide for 17 apartments with a 2,909 square foot commercial space on the first floor. There is no demolition proposed and minimal exterior changes (restoration of windows). He needs to put down $50,000 toward the project by 4/13 and wants to be sure the community would support his investment.
- Mr. Kopel has restored other buildings for residential use, including a church and industrial building in Fishtown.
- The present structure is one story with a high (26 foot) ceiling. To accommodate the 17 apartment units, 2 floors would be added, creating 3 levels (plus basement) with approximately 8-foot ceilings. The location of the floors would be dictated by the existing window partitions. Based on the size of the building, 15 apartment units would be permitted by-right (i.e. without requiring a variance from the Zoning Board). The proposed units are a mix of one and two bedroom apartments ranging in size from 382 to 930 square feet.
- Parking: 6 spaces are required under the Zoning Code, but none are provided for on the site. The developer is in talks with a church on Green Lane and the owner of a nearby lot about possibility leasing some spaces, with 1:1 space:unit being the ideal goal.
- This is a high cost project. The building has only been used as storage for medical records and has been vacant for close to a decade. It has sustained water damaged. The cost of removing the original bank vault and reinforced concrete add to the cost of restoring the building. Similarly, the historic designation significantly limits changes and adaptations to the buildingís exterior. This had made it very hard to find a buyer for the building in the past and is a major factor in why it has sat empty for so long. The developer feels that in order to justify his substantial investment costs, there needs to be 17 units. While an attendee suggested that adding only a single floor with 12í ceilings would be preferable, the attorney reiterated that they needed a certain number of units to make the project economically viable.
Questions from meeting attendees to the presenters:
- Q: Who are you hoping to attract with these apartments?
A: Young professionals. A young-looking attendee stated there was demand for small, affordable apartments. The size of these apartments makes them unlikely to appeal to couples, so it will probably be single residents.
- Q: What kind of commercial use are you contemplating?
A: Maybe a cafť or professional office of some sort. No tenant in mind yet.
- Q: What about trash storage?
A: Maybe in the basement. There is a side yard that could include a space for a garbage enclosure of some sort. Likely commercial trash pickup.
The presenters left as per CRCA policy, and community discussion continued. Comments included:
- Too many units, and some of the units are very small!
- The building should be occupied by something and not sit empty.
- Concerns about what the commercial space would be
- A suggestion to eliminate the commercial space and make the property all residential, perhaps with larger/more appealing apartments.
- Concerns about trash management
- Water damage inside building will only get worse with time.
- Wish I didnít have to make a decision now Ė there are a lot of unanswered questions about commercial space, parking, trash.
- But if developer walks, we run the risk it will sit vacant for another decade.
- Iím ambivalent -- Iíd rather see a restaurant or a brew pub in there, but if itís left vacant, it will deteriorate.
- Trash should be kept inside and side yard used as green space/landscaped.
- Itís a tough building to sell because of the historic designation. Retail, especially food or beverage, would be ideal commercial use.
- Iím a neighbor concerned about parking, but Iím also concerned about vacant buildings.
- A vote was taken to gauge support/opposition to the proposal. Out of 31 people who voted, 2 opposed any re-use of the building, 13 support the development of a mixed commercial/residential space, and 16 support all residential use.
Mark your calendars! CRCA is hosting a fundraiser at Tavern on Ridge on Wednesday, May 23 between 5:00 and 8:00 P.M. During that time, 25% of the proceeds from food sales will go to CRCA.
CRCA Vice-President Don Simon offered a few words on the oft-ignored issue of Steep Slopes. Despite zoning code language prohibiting development or excavation of slopes greater than 25%, development and site-clearing often occur. One issue is that some administrative agencies are of the opinion that enforcement of the steep slope ordinance is only triggered once an application for permit(s) has been submitted to L&I. CRCA, along with the Northwest Coalition of Civics and Friends of the Wissahickon, are organizing a meeting with Councilman Jones to discuss enforcement of the steep slope protections.
5th District Police
A message from the 5th District Police: Lock your car doors to prevent thefts from autos! Also, the police have a photo of a vehicle they believe has been involved in a series of tire thefts.