Plans For Former Triangle Park Jeopardized By Appeal? Monday, July 25, 2016
The story at 601 Christian St. has taken several turns since we last checked in on the property at the end of last year. In case you're walking into the movie halfway through, here's some background:
A gas station sat on this triangular parcel for many years, and about half a dozen years ago, after several years of vacancy, the owner of the property allowed a group of neighbors to clean up the parcel to create Triangle Park. It looked like the City would purchase the land to preserve the pocket park in perpetuity, but in 2012 the City decided it wasn't willing to purchase the property without major ground testing and remediation of any contamination from the years of gas station use. Then the owner tore up the park.
By the end of 2015, the owner had an agreement of sale with developers who were planning a five-story mixed-use building with twelve apartments. With feedback from the neighborhood, they revised their project down to four stories with nine apartments, but that project got denied at the ZBA in January. After considering their options for a few months, the developers changed their proposal again, designing a five-story building with seven apartments and a fresh fruit and vegetable element as part of a first floor retail space. The project received permits over the counter, according to Plan Philly, because it takes advantage of a Fresh Food Market bonus in the Zoning Code which allows an extra fifteen feet of height for a building that contains “an establishment in which the sale of fresh fruits and vegetables to the general public occupies at least 50% of the display area.”
The folks from Friends of Triangle Park were not happy about this situation, so they appealed the by-right permit, stating on their Facebook page that the bonus was not intended for Bella Vista and that neighbors opposed the project. The ZBA denied the appeal last month. Unsatisfied with the ruling, the group then offered to support a revised project with no retail use, but they couldn't come to an agreement with the developers. FOTP appealed the ruling to the Court of Common Pleas last week.
That pretty much brings us up to date. The developers have a zoning permit in hand to built a five-story mixed-use building on this site, provided they include a fresh fruit and vegetable display. Assuming they don't mind building at risk, they are free to proceed with pulling building permits and beginning construction. Unless this appeal is successful, this might just be the end of the line for Triangle Park. Then again, we don't even play an attorney on television, so we won't try to predict what'll happen in court.