Last spring we reported on three houses under construction on the 6600 block of Lincoln Drive, all on the grounds of the Nichols-Goering House. Said mansion is a relatively recent addition to the local historic register, “a representation of Colonial Revival architectural style.” This is a good time to mention that the property’s historic designation means that the Historical Commission has jurisdiction over the entire site, not just the building.
Given that our last update occurred about eight months ago, we would have expected that these homes would have been finished and listed and perhaps sold by now- but they’re still under construction. Perhaps COVID played some role in the delay. Another reason that things are moving slowly is that the homes should have never been permitted in the first place without approval from the Historical Commission. When the HC and L&I got together on the subject, L&I owned up to the mistake, but decided against putting a stop to the project for fear of exposing the City to liability. We imagine this process gummed up the works in terms of the construction timeline.
We told you before that the site can accommodate another home, and last year the developers applied for a permit to build a home at 6627 Lincoln Dr., getting denied at the ZBA. They pivoted to a revised proposal that was materially the same as the original plan, just with garage access from an easement shared with the driveway for the historic mansion. This three-story home, clad in Wissahickon schist, would complete the redevelopment of the site, but would largely block views of the of the Nichols-Goering House from the street.
Remember though, we told you that the Historical Commission has the right to weigh in on any projects that occur on any of the lots that were spun off from the original property. While they ultimately decided against raising an issue with the three homes on the southern portion of the property because construction was already well underway, the project at 6627 Lincoln Dr. is only through excavation and the Historical Commission is therefore getting involved. The HC staff considers the design of the new building to be compatible with the existing historic building, but they are still recommending that the Commission deny the application because the new building would block views of the Nichols-Goering House.
It’s worth noting, it was nearly impossible to see the Nichols-Goering House from the street prior to the start of this project. No doubt the Nichols-Goering House is an attractive building, but requiring the maintenance of the historic building as well as clear site lines feels like an onerous burden for the property owners. It should be quite interesting to see how the Commission ultimately rules when it hears the case in March.