Fairmount Manor is a garden style apartment complex that covers most of the city block bounded by Fairmount Avenue, Green Street, 6th Street, and 7th Street. The apartments were constructed in the early 1970s as privately owned low income rental units, replacing traditional Philly row homes, and were subject to a lawsuit from the neighbors because they not allowed to participate in the planning process for the project. The lawsuit was ultimately successful, but by the time it finished winding its way through the courts, Fairmount Manor was already built and occupied.
This complex was constructed on the tail end of a public housing boom in East Poplar which changed the face of this long established neighborhood just to the west of Northern Liberties. East Poplar saw relatively little new construction or development for the next several decades, but over the last few years we’ve seen development bleed over from the east, as prices have become prohibitive in Northern Liberties for many people. It feels like an expected next chapter, that developers are planning to raze Fairmount Manor and replace it with a sizable mixed-use development.
The information we have comes from the project’s zoning refusal and a public notice about the project, ahead of Civic Design Review. At this time, we know that the proposal calls for 21 single family homes, 56 duplexes, two apartment buildings with 327 units and about 18K sqft of retail space, and a total of 229 parking spaces. The project will trigger refusals for floor area ratio and setbacks, but not for density or parking. Ultimately, our take on the project will have to wait until we get more information on how it will lay out and how it will relate to the surrounding properties. Apartment buildings would seem to make the most sense fronting 6th Street due to its width, but could we instead see homes or duplexes here, to mirror the homes across the street?
On its face, this project feels like a major upgrade, bringing density and retail to a large parcel in a good location. But execution will really matter, given the size of the project. One thing that we will say is that we hope there’s a strong affordable housing component, given that it will result in the elimination of dozens of well located affordable units. Many people have been living at Fairmount Manor for a number of years, and we hope they are shown some consideration in this process. Since the project will require a variance, we wonder whether the community will demand just that before they offer their support.