For second time, Civic Design Review Board votes ‘disappointment’ in apartments offered to Temple students

The first time the developers of a proposed 320-unit apartment complex near Temple University appeared before the city’s civic design review, a panel member said, “It’s a sad project. . . . If I woke up here, I would think I was kidnapped.

That’s what Dan Garofalo, vice chairman of the advisory board, said at the Dec. 7 meeting about the proposed apartments on a 2.5-acre site at 1600 N. 11th St., next to the Bright Hope Baptist Church in North Philadelphia.

On Tuesday, the developer, 1600 N. 11th Street CRCP LLC, and architectural firm, VBC Studio, of Boston, made a second appearance before the panel via Zoom.

The developer presented new plans for the studios primarily, designed as off-campus private accommodation for Temple students. At a community meeting, residents said they were told the apartments would be market priced and cost about $1,300 a month, the Philadelphia Tribune reported in November.

But little has changed in the new plans, the panel said.

VBC Studio lead architect Sara-Ann Logan said she added benches and plantings on the 11th Street side to better address the panel’s concerns that the design was disconnected from the community.

She said the two long strips of flats – which a public commentator described as resembling “shipping containers” in December – had been moved north to create a bigger buffer between the flats and the community.

On Wednesday, Michael Johns, an architect who chairs the panel, summarized the vote to recommend against the design this way:

“It was a vote of discontent in the plan. We weren’t happy with the plan. We felt that ultimately it was not a project that would enhance the public realm.

City planner Ian Litwan, who presented a staff report on the resubmitted plans, said the project still did not fit well with the architectural scheme of Temple University to the north, nor that of the residential neighborhoods of Yorktown and Jefferson Manor. to the south and east.

Litwan noted that the advisory committee had suggested in December that having two dumpsters in the street was “unacceptable”. In the new plans, he said, “trash is still stored outside.”

Garofalo, architect and principal consultant at Econsult Solutions Inc., said during the hearing, “I am extremely disappointed.

He said too often in some neighborhoods where there is “poverty and struggle, we don’t see the level of design and commitment that the community deserves.”

Johns had pointed out that storing garbage on the street would encourage short dumping.

“It’s very unfortunate, leaving the garbage storage outside was an easy fix, and to me it was a total disregard for the public domain,” he said.

But Johns said the Civic Design Review Panel can only make recommendations to the Planning Commission.

Its reports are submitted to the commission and to the City’s Permits and Inspections Department. The next step is for L&I to approve or reject the developer’s request for a zoning waiver for the project.

Most members of the public who spoke on Tuesday objected to the new design.

Faye Anderson, preservationist and public historian, has raised environmental concerns because a commercial laundry and auto repair shop once occupied the site.

In an interview on Wednesday, she added: “We still don’t know if the land is contaminated. L&I records do not show that the required soil tests were performed. »

Michael Mattioni, an attorney for the developer, told the panel on Tuesday that all underground storage tanks were removed by June. He did not return a call for further comment.

” READ MORE: Residents of Yorktown and Jefferson Manor say plans for new student apartments near Temple University could pose a threat to the environment

” READ MORE: Civic Design panel tells student housing developer near Temple University: Go back to the drawing board

David Sims, an urban planning student at Temple, said he understood the consensus from the December meeting was “to drop it [the original design] and start over. Unfortunately, the developer misunderstood the advisory board and the updated design is disappointing.

Paula Peebles, an activist and president of the Pennsylvania National Action Network who lives at Jefferson Manor, said, “It doesn’t meet the design requirements. We are already overwhelmed with Temple University issues, waste and disrespect.

William Mackey, executive director of nonprofit Men for Positive Change, was the only member of the public to speak out in favor of the flats.

“We support this effort the developer has put into the community,” Mackey said.

Mackey, formerly executive director of the private nonprofit City Wide Youth Leadership Agency, said Men For Positive Change is not located in Yorktown. He is based in a community center at 1410 N. 16th St. in the Franklinville neighborhood, nearly a mile from the proposed apartment project.

After the hearing, Peebles said the neighborhood did not need more student housing.

“We need affordable housing for low-income and middle-class people. Our children and grandchildren want to buy homes and stay in this community. We told the city [officials] that, but they are so disrespectful.

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