Would replace a bunch of existing buildings

Still in its early stages, an Orens Brothers proposal for a five-story 150-unit building along the north the side of the 4400 block of Chestnut would require collaboration between numerous parties. The developers are presenting plans for this project at tonight's Spruce Hill Community Association meeting.

Last month, Orens Brothers appeared at the tail end of a community zoning meeting to informally present the plans, and to gauge reactions from neighbors, according to SHCA zoning chair Barry Grossbach. For it to happen, the project would demolish vacant and occupied homes and a building that stretches from Chestnut to Ludlow Street. It would include some PRA-owned properties, according to Grossbach. It's still to be determined how the ownership agreements will work out.

Great use for a space next to a gas station

It's been relatively quiet along Baltimore Avenue on our end of late. Last month, an SHCA meeting for plans to turn a vacant 43rd & Baltimore corner into 132 condos and apartments was rescheduled due to a fizzled blizzard. The meeting should take place sometime this month. A few blocks away though, an old auto garage next to a gas station at 46th Street has plans for new action.

Muay Thai kickboxing coming upstairs

Soon, the second floor of that building at 4542 Baltimore Ave. will be converted into the 8 Limbs Academy, a Muay Thai kickboxing gym. 8 Limbs plans to open by March, according to the West Philly Local. It will feature an open floor plan covering 2,200 sqft of space with over a thousand sqft of mats, and will offer youth and adult classes.

All winter, we had been wondering what the deal was with a ground-floor retail space at 4100 Chester Ave. in a building that houses a few tenants, including The May School at the University of the Sciences. From what we understand, the space has been vacant for nearly a decade. This fall, however, a Dunkin Donuts will open here.

The space

Though the site is zoned for commercial purposes, a zoning exception was required for take-out. That exception is usually automatic as long as it's not a detriment to the neighborhood, said Spruce Hill Community Association (SHCA) zoning chair Barry Grossbach. SHCA members arranged a meeting between neighbors and the folks opening the Dunkin Donuts in order to discuss the proposal. Neighbors raised some concerns about a chain store, as documented in this Philly Magazine mention. Don't those neighbors know that American runs on Dunkin? What's next, will they want to deny children the right to bring in munchkin Donuts to school on their birthday?

Neighbors in Spruce Hill in West Philadelphia are attempting to build up their organization by offering free membership for new members that join the Spruce Hill Community Association (SHCA) between now and next winter.

Some civic groups charge fees and some don’t. SHCA fees are $20 a year. The group’s more than 300 members provide an annual budget of $6,000 that contributes to the organization's efforts in the community. Current members decided to offer free membership in order to boost the group’s numbers, ostensibly increasing the budget in years to come. Ten new members had joined by early May, according to Rich Guffanti, SCHA’s database coordinator.

Lot at 43rd and Baltimore

“There’s about a dozen things we do with it,” said Guffanti. That includes handling publicity and making the community aware of local development like plans for a 92-unit building at 43rd & Baltimore. When neighbors voiced their concern about a Subway proposal at 45th and Baltimore, the group's budget contributed to community outreach efforts, though the store did eventually open. While the money is not much, for SCHA it serves its purpose.

A vacant corner at 43rd & Sansom in Spruce Hill will soon be transformed when a four-story 32-unit mixed-use project will be constructed. Work may begin as early as this spring, with the ZBA having approved the project in last month. “It’s a very dark corner in Spruce Hill,” said Spruce Hill Community Association (SHCA) zoning chair Barry Grossbach. “Our thought is that it could bring some light to the area.” SCHA approved the project in February.

Back in April, Spruce Hill Community Association President Barry Grossbach told us “the last chapter has yet to be written,” after the ZBA denied a Wine and Spirits application for a location in the strip mall located at 43rd and Chestnut Streets in University City.

Shopping center

Before the decision members of the SHCA drafted a letter expressing their support for the store. Some community members voiced their opposition (rooted largely in religious values) to the store occupying the site now home to adult video store Risqué Video. And when the ZBA denied the application, SHCA members filed an appeal and collected more than 500 signatures in a petition.

Last month, after a June 6 hearing, the ZBA reversed its initial decision and approved the application for a high end liquor store.

Future high-end Fine Wine and Good Spirits location

“We’re tired of going into Center City to buy wine,” said Grossbach. He said members of the SHCA had been working for more than five years to bring a state store into the neighborhood.

“The dump at 40th and Market closed up [last year],” he said. “As bad as it was, at least it was an outlet.”

In West Philly, the opinion of one neighborhood organization has trumped the voice of another. The ZBA recently reversed its decision to reject a Subway franchise at 4533 Baltimore Ave.

Yes Subway?

The reversal occurred after the applicants asked the Spruce Hill Community Association to write a letter of reconsideration to the ZBA. Weeks later, the Garden Court Community Association, whose members showed up at the zoning hearing to express their concerns, mainly that the sandwich shop would bring illegal traffic down the alley that abuts its exterior, received a letter informing them about the reversal. Despite their grievances, the Subway would be granted a take-out license.

“We’re very upset with it,” says GCNA past president Mary Allegra. “We’re consulting a lawyer.”

A decision about whether to grant a takeout variance to a Subway store that may come to 4533 Baltimore Ave. was put on hold until January 10, after a group of NIMBY neighbors and near residents came out in opposition last Wednesday at the zoning hearing. The Spruce Hill Community Association (SHCA) had written a letter of support.

Future Subway?

A Facebook post last week called for actions from local residents:

“Would any of you care to join me at a zoning hearing at 1515 Arch tomorrow (Wed) at 2pm to try to stop a Subway franchise from opening at the corner of 46th and Baltimore, right next to someone's house and driveway?” wrote a near neighbor, “I don't want Baltimore Ave to turn into a strip mall of fast food corporations.”

According to the Facebook thread, about 10 residents showed up to the meeting to oppose the chain coming to the neighborhood.