Graduate Hospital

All need variances for different reasons

The agenda at last week's SOSNA zoning committee meeting was fairly innocuous and we almost didn't attend. But sometimes even a boring looking agenda can produce an interesting meeting, so we're kinda glad we showed our face after all. Today we'll give you the lowdown on three of the four projects that were on that agenda, all of which are located on 21st Street.

Vacant lot at 730 S. 21st St.

730 S. 21st St. has been vacant for a long time, and in recent years it contained a neatly landscaped garden. These days it's a little overgrown, but maybe that's because it's in the process of getting sold and soon a home will sprout here. The proposal for this parcel is very straightforward, just a single-family home. The lot is only 47' deep, and a by-right build would only permit a 33' deep home which is a lousy depth for a new construction home. Aside from some confusion about the status of the upcoming sale of the property, the people in room didn't seem to have an issue with the project.

Corner bar's long run coming to an end

The last time we looked at 20th & Bainbridge, we had just heard plans that a long-vacant building at 702 S. 20th St. would be demolished and replaced with a duplex. Next door to this project, which looks like it's nearly finished, is Robert's Twi-Lite Lounge, a corner bar that's been around for decades. Some years ago these were issues between the business and near neighbors, but that's settled down as far as we know. Even so, the bar has been available for sale for quite some time with an asking price that's been impossible for anyone to meet. Until now, that is.

This is why we can't have nice things

We were so happy, earlier this summer, to share the good news that the ZBA had approved the mixed-use project at 2401 Washington Ave., an industrially zoned property that's been vacant for many years. And it's with just as much dread that we tell you that, as of last week, the project is under appeal. A special thank you to Madeline Shikomba of the "North of Washington Avenue Coalition" and the other neighbors who would clearly prefer a storage facility here, rather than apartments and retail.

Preview of the appeal

Anyone else getting a sense of deja vu? Remember, the mixed-use project at 1601 Washington Ave. was appealed last year and the variance for the project was overturned by the Court of Common Pleas. At that point, we lamented not only the implications for that project, but also for the proposal at 2401 Washington Ave. which had just been presented to the community. And now our fears have been realized. With zoning approval, we were hopeful that we'd soon be seeing this at 24th & Washington:

Project rendering

But instead we'll be staring at this for the foreseeable future:

Blighted homes were demoed a few years ago

After a long wait, it seems that 1507 and 1515 Catharine St. could get redeveloped soon. Remember, these properties sat vacant and blighted for many years until the Redevelopment Authority demolished them back in early 2013.

1507 Catharine St. in the past
1515 Catharine St. in the past

These properties, along with several others, were acquired by Universal Companies back in 2004. Universal pulled renovation permits but never fixed up the homes. The Redevelopment Authority pulled the homes back from Universal in 2010 but didn't do anything about them for a few years. Last year, the PRA marketed the properties, post-taxpayer-funded-demolition, for sale through the Phillylandworks website. Now they're privately owned after a developer paid $186,500 for the pair. Passing by recently we spied some zoning notices.

After no progress for years

Okay, we admit it, we're on a bit of an obscure block kick lately. Last week, we covered a proposed project at 1225 Annin St. on a block that's certainly not one of South Philly's most traveled. Today we make a return to the 2500 block of Montrose Street, which we last visited a little over a year ago. This block can only be accessed via Grays Ferry Avenue and then it dead ends at 26th Street, with wonderful views of what we believe to be transformers.

2500 block of Montrose Street

Sorry, let's try that again.

2500 block of Montrose Street

We've actually had running coverage of this block over the years. Way back in 2011, Metro Impact came forward with big plans for something called Montrose Court, with eight homes on the north side of the street and three homes on the south side. In preparation for this project, the developer demolished several structures on the block. It looked like a no-brainer to us, so it was surprising when it didn't move forward.