spruce hill community association

Long time coming after 2011 fire

Since fire swept through the Transition to Independent Living Facility at 4536 Spruce St. in 2011, the building has sat, a burned out memory, with its facade still intact. That state of idleness will continue, at least for now, as a timeline for redevelopment of the parcel by Mission First Housing Group into 24 affordable-housing units is still up in the air.

“We're in limbo right now,” said Barry Grossbach, Spruce Hill Community Association zoning chair.

Current view of the property

Developers last appeared before the SHCA in December. According to Grossbach, the SCHA is working with them to address a neighbor's concern—the owner of the adjacent Kingsbury apartment building, who is worried about how close the new building will approach his own. There's also the final streetscape, and landscape issues to be addressed.

Developers substantially decreased the setback following earlier meetings, but final designs are still being considered, Grossbach said, calling it “a work in progress,” and adding “there's no time frame at this point.” The building would include one- and two-bedroom apartments aimed at individuals earning less than $36K a year, according to the West Philly Local.

After lots of community engagement

Along Baltimore Avenue in West Philly, the time has come for developers to move forward and officially apply for zoning for their proposal for a 132-unit mixed-use building with a fitness center at a vacant lot at 43rd & Baltimore across the street from Clark Park. Until 2009, a historic building that previously housed a school and women’s shelter stood on this site.

The site

Representatives from U3 Ventures, led by owner Omar Blaik, presented the most recent plans for 4224 Baltimore at a public meeting last month that was overseen by the Spruce Hill Community Association. Those plans were for a glass, brick and stone panel building with 132 condos and rental apartments that would also include a large restaurant and the aforementioned retail fitness center. Designed by Cecil Baker Architects, the most recent vision is for 120K sqft of residential and 17K sqft of retail in a two-section structure with varying heights, with 60 car parking spaces and 50 bike spots.

Could add to energy on Baltimore Ave.

There's been so much talk about development up near the 5000 block of Baltimore Ave. in West Philly the past six months, one could almost forget about numerous plans for redevelopment down near the other side of Baltimore, before Clark Park, closer to the 40th Street Portal.

There are plans for the portal itself to be renovated from a 16K sqft concrete trolley station into a green space engineered with green infrastructure, like green roofs, an estimated $3M project, according to numbers reported in the Daily Pennsylvanian, plus there was another public meeting yesterday, hosted by developers U3 Ventures regarding the 92-unit proposal at a long-vacant 43rd & Baltimore lot.

Now, it appears more improvements are on the horizon on this side of Baltimore Ave., as representatives of The City School Spruce Hill campus presented plans to renovate portions of the facade of their structure, an old church at 4115 Baltimore Ave., as well as build a small, very modern looking addition to an older building, to the Spruce Hill Community Association zoning committee at its February meeting.

Azalea Gardens, a graduate student housing complex, is the latest proposal in a long-contested battle over how to redevelop a historic Italianate mansion located at 400 S. 40th St., which is owned by Penn.

Just days after a shooting outside the Watusi Lounge at 46th & Walnut , L&I shut the bar down last month, citing a bad food license as the reason. Gunshots also rang out near the bar back in April.

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.

It’s been over a year since we first told you about it, but now it's official: a new Fine Wine and Good Spirits is coming, likely by midsummer, to 43rd & Chestnut in University City. Two spots in a shopping center that were last occupied by a check cashing store and Risque Video will be combined into a single retail space for the liquor store. The store will feature a more diverse collection of offerings than many other Pennsylvania State Stores.

Future liquor store

“I think the group who will be most excited about it I think, frankly, are the students at the University of Pennsylvania,” said Barry Grossbach, Spruce Hill Community Association chair.

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.

The gateway to the Baltimore Avenue business corridor may soon be transformed. On March 12th, developers received a conditional use permit for the construction of a ninety-two unit apartment building at the southeast corner of 43rd and Baltimore across the street from Clark Park and the Green Line Café.

The vacant lot

Located at 4224-26 Baltimore Ave., the lot is zoned for residential multi-family and is intended to accommodate moderate- to high-density, multi-unit residential buildings. At present, the lot is vacant and overgrown, and was the subject of our musings last March. In 2008, Clarkmore LP, a part New York-based of Thylan Associates, purchased the property for $3.5M. In 2009, owners tore down a historic building located at the site that previously housed a school and women’s shelter. It's sat fenced off and dejected since.