Philadelphia's Office of Housing and Community Development has picked Cameron Square Neighborhood Development LP, a consortium of Exton-based Hankin Group, Sam Sherman Associates of Philadelphia and Dale Corp., over neighbors' choice Onion Flats LLC, of Northern Liberties, to develop 69 condos and townhomes on 1.5 city-owned acres at 19th and Wylie.
This despite a vote by residents, meeting at Second Pilgrim Baptist Church (see PhillyDeals item last month), that went overwhelmingly (38-2) for the rival Onion Flats proposal. "There was no interest in what the community felt," Onion Flats partner Tim McDonald told me.
Why did the city override the residents? "The neighborhood preferred the Onion Flats proposal, but Hankin was willing to pay $900,000 for the land, and self-finance" construction, while Onion Flats would have needed bank financing, OHCD spokesman Paul Chrystie told me. But McDonald said the city had been willing to donate the land to either developer, and it shouldn't have been a factor.
How do neighbors feel being ignored? "We were lucky to get a proposal from two developers at the top of their game," Penelope Giles, executive director of Francisville Neighborhood Development Corp., told me. "We really coudln't lose." So why vote? "The Onion Flats proposal appealed more to the community because of the sustainability element. It was really about design. But it's my understanding the city selected Hankin based on its adherence to the way the Request for Proposals was written."