Manayunk project at St. Mary's put on hold

Irene Madrak (left), executive director of North Light Community Center in Manayunk, and Kevin Smith, president of the Manayunk Neighborhood Council, stand in the parking lot of St. Mary of the Assumption Church in March.

A proposal for a 100-apartment development in Manayunk at the former St. Mary of the Assumption Parish, which had stirred intense opposition from community members, has been put on hold -- at least for now.

Late Monday, City Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. announced that on Thursday he would withdraw a bill that opponents said would have fast-tracked the development of the one-acre church campus at 176 Conarroe St.

“I have heard from many residents who feel very strongly about the future of their neighborhood who cited traffic, density, and overdevelopment as areas of concern,” Jones said in a statement.

"This development had its merits and may work in other areas, but it was not right for this location.”

The St. Mary’s property included the now-closed Catholic church, rectory, school, and parking lot. At issue is that the project is for a multi-family dwelling in an area zoned for single-family homes.

A city official said a hearing on the project that had been scheduled for 1 p.m. Tuesday at the City Planning Commission had been pulled from the agenda.

Critics of Jones' bill said it would have permitted developer Jack Bienenfeld to move forward without going through the normal zoning process.

Bret Felder, Bienenfeld’s lawyer, was not immediately available for comment Tuesday.

But an official familiar with the project said the developer would consider his options for moving forward. One option could be applying for rezoning through the Zoning Board of Adjustment and Appeal. The bill Jones had proposed would allowed Bienenfeld to bypass the zoning board.

“The councilman’s statement shows that he understood our arguments," said Kevin Smith, president of the Manayunk Neighborhood Council.

"This [opposition to Bienenfeld's propject] is about the need for planning, the need for parking, and the already horrible traffic problems in this community. It’s about density and it’s about preserving the neighborhood’s character."

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