Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Callowhill residents consider a 12-unit Ridge Ave. apartment complex


Members of the Callowhill Neighborhood Association heard a pitch Monday night for a proposed residential development on the 1100 block of Ridge Avenue, between Spring Garden and Buttonwood streets. The proposal calls for four attached four-story apartment buildings on an existing surface parking lot zoned for industrial use.

The project would require the property at 1111-1121 Ridge Ave., a 4,800-square-foot parcel, to be divided into four lots. Under the proposal, each of the four new buildings would have two 2-bedroom units and one 4-bedroom unit, for a total of 32 bedrooms on the property. The buildings would have separate 800-square foot units on the first and second stories, and combined third-and-fourth-story units of around 1,700 square feet each, according to the architect.

The zoning application was refused by L&I because residential uses are not permitted on-site, and because the plan provides no parking. A zoning board hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, July 23 at 9:30 a.m.

Attorney Glenn Hing--representing the property owners, who also own and operate Tofu Work, Inc. at 1018 Wood Street--presented the project to CNA, along with architect Yao Chang Huang, who submitted the zoning application. The neighborhood seemed generally uneasy about the density of the proposal, which would occupy 87% of the lot area, with no front, side, or rear yard space, according to the architectural plans.The association also was concerned about the lack of parking, though Hing said the owners are working toward an agreement with a local parking lot owner to provide spaces for the residents.

Some members of the group wanted to know what clientele the developers would be targeting. Hing would say only that they would market the apartments to “people who want to live and work in the neighborhood.” He estimates the construction cost at between $150 and $170 per square foot, but said the owners have not made decisions yet about what materials they would use inside and outside the building, and couldn’t provide an estimate of the rental price for each unit.

A representative of Chosen 300 Ministries, a local provider of services to the homeless which currently uses the property in question for parking, said that commercial uses would be more appropriate for the site. Others asked about bicycle parking, and Hing said the tenants could “presumably” bring bikes into the shared basement. One resident pointed out that the architectural plans included no way to reach the roof, where the architect said that the heating and air conditioning units would be placed.

But the biggest concern was the density. One CNA member said the proposal is “extremely aggressive” in terms of lot coverage and dwelling units.

“It’s a very small lot, and you’ve got a lot of people in there,” said another.

CNA president Sarah McEneany said she generally hoped to see more thoughtful and creative design proposals for the area.

“I was not excited by the project,” McEneany told PlanPhilly, “and I would like to be excited about new construction in the neighborhood.”

The Callowhill Neighbors Association plans to send a letter to the developers and the zoning board later this week.

The proposed project is part of a larger transformation of the area from underused industrial district to residential and commercial hub. Just south of the proposed construction, apartments are being installed at the long-vacant Goldtex shoe factory, and around the corner, developers are planning to convert a century-old auto shop into a 40-unit apartment complex.

Tuesday night, the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation will hold a public meeting to discuss the proposed Eastern Tower, a mixed-use commercial and residential highrise at 11th and Vine. PlanPhilly will have updates on that project as well.

 Follow Jared Brey on Twitter @jaredbrey. Contact him at  is a seven-year old alternative media news website dedicated to covering design, planning and development issues in Philadelphia. It is a project of PennPraxis, the clinical arm of the School of Design of the University of Pennsylvania. It is funded by the William Penn Foundation.

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