Deal struck on rezoning University City High School site

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A 14-acre parcel that houses the former University City High School is to be rezoned for development plans by Drexel University. The $25 million sale of the former University City High School building to Drexel may have been in jeopardy if an agreement hadn't been reached. (PlanPhilly)

Drexel University reached a deal with Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell’s office and several community groups over the zoning of the 14-acre parcel housing the former University City High School Thursday morning.

The parties were negotiating in the hallway outside City Council chambers until just minutes before a deal was reached and the bill was amended by a Council vote.

Under the terms of the amendments, new development on the site cannot be built higher than 65 feet for the first 50 feet of depth along the south side of Warren Street, across from some three-story rowhomes, and for the first 10 feet of depth along some other edges of the property. The initial draft of the bill had set the height limit for those portions of the property at 75 feet.

More importantly, the deal also includes a Community Benefits Agreement and a “Framework for Guiding Principles between the Community, Drexel University, and Wexford Development.”

If an agreement hadn’t been reached on Thursday, the sale of the building may have been in jeopardy. The $25 million sale to Drexel is scheduled to close on Monday. Council’s last session before summer break is next Thursday, at which point the bill is likely to pass.

“I think we’ve done reasonably well,” said Michael Jones, president of Powelton Village Civic Association, after the deal was reached. “… We’ve got a process of design review for individual buildings on the site that the community will be involved with. We don’t have veto power or anything, but we will be involved with buildings as they’re designed.”

Jones also said the agreement would limit the number of parking structures that could be built on the site and require that certain of them be wrapped in active uses. In addition, Jones said the agreement extends the amount of time set aside for the potential development of a K-8 public school. The initial bill set the property aside for 5 years; the agreement extends it to 7 years.

“I am very relieved that it’s done,” Jones said. “I’m exhausted.”

PlanPhilly.com  is dedicated to covering design, planning and development issues in Philadelphia. The news website is a project of PennPraxis, the clinical arm of the School of Design of the University of Pennsylvania. It is funded by the Wyncote Foundation.

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