Well, that sucked.
1245 Point Breeze Ave. went to the ZBA earlier this week, with a plan for a four-story mixed-use building with a grocery store on the first floor and fifteen apartments above. At the community meeting for this project, the standing ovations gave the impression that a letter of support would be forthcoming but somehow, the vote and the letter reflected opposition instead. This resulted in opposition from the councilman's office, and at the hearing the councilman's representative specifically indicated opposition to the residential density. The Planning Commission voiced their opposition, and the ZBA then voted against granting the variance.
We're not upset with the ZBA or the Planning Commission, as they were put in a rather impossible situation by the councilman's office and the community group. As we stated earlier this week, CMX-2 zoning is not feasible for new development on most commercial corridors, especially on those with depressed retail rents. The only way to make mixed-use development possible on a corridor like Point Breeze is to remap to a more generous mixed-use zoning, like CMX-2.5, to allow for more height and density to create more apartment units to help pick up the slack. Remapping decisions come from the councilman's office and if they're not willing to have a serious conversation about remapping Washington Avenue, we don't think Point Breeze is getting remapped any time soon. This is unfortunate.
As for the community group and a handful of near neighbors, we don't know what to say. Point Breeze is a food desert and many residents lack access to fresh fruits and vegetables. This project would have improved access to grocery items with a deed restriction guaranteeing the use moving forward and a promise to offer the space at $1/month in perpetuity. This store would have been a great benefit to many people in the community, and it's a shame that gentrification fears expressed through concerns about parking, density, and the "character of the neighborhood" submarined this project.
The developer isn't sure about what's next. It's possible they'll pursue an alternate development plan that doesn't include a grocery store, or they might just let the property fall out of contract. Suffice to say that whatever happens here won't be as good as what could have happened here but hey, at least the vast amount of parking on Point Breeze Avenue won't be negatively impacted. Hooray.
Disclosure: OCF Holdings is the developer for this project. OCF Realty is the parent company of OCF Holdings and Naked Philly.