The saga continues for a little triangular patch of land created by the intersection of Christian Street, 6th Street, and Passyunk Avenue. This property was historically home to a gas station but it's been on a roller coaster ride in recent years. About six years ago, the owner of the property allowed a group of neighbors to clean up the parcel, creating a little oasis called Triangle Park. The community was happy with the green space and it looked like the City would purchase the land to preserve the pocket park in perpetuity.
In April of 2012, the owner put up a fence around the perimeter of the property, with reports suggesting that he was unhappy that the City was taking so long to buy the land, and he wanted to keep his options open with private developers. Half a year later, we learned that the City was not willing to purchase the property without major ground testing and remediation of any contamination from the years of gas station use. By the time the following spring rolled around, the owner had torn up the entire park.
At the time, we speculated that the chances of a permanent green space here were dimming, and the odds of redevelopment were increasing by the day. Weeks ago, Plan Philly reported that the owner of the property had an agreement to sell it to developers who were planning a five-story mixed-use building with twelve apartments. Yesterday, we spied zoning notices posted at the property.
The project has a number of people fighting against it. The Friends of Triangle Park have created a petition, asking elected officials to help them preserve the property as a green space. We're not sure how this would work, since we're pretty sure the City isn't able to force a property owner to sell. Eminent domain would certainly be an option, but that could result in years of litigation. So people are actively opposing the the project based on the refusals. At a Bella Vista Neighbors Association meeting last month, the community opposed the project 63-11. Take a look at the project, which was designed by Atkin Olshin Schade.
There are multiple refusals for the project, including the height (38' permitted, 57' proposed), the density (4 units permitted, 12 proposed), and lot coverage (80% permitted, 100% proposed). The developer has indicated a willingness to build something closer to the code but all three refusals will still come into play. We've seen commenters lament the size of the building, worried that it will tower over the rest of the neighborhood. We've heard complaints that the building won't provide any parking and that parking is already tight in the neighborhood. Regarding the height, there's a taller building just a block away which you can see in the image above. This isn't a big deal. Regarding parking, aside from it not being one of the refusals, it would ruin the ground floor commercial space.
This project reminds us of other zoning battles at 23rd & Christian and 23rd & South, with the added complexity that a bunch of neighbors don't want any building here at all and want it to be a park instead. We don't see how this project will get support from the community or approval from the ZBA, so we expect to covering this property again in several months with the next chapter of the saga. Stay tuned. And if you're looking for some fireworks, the ZBA hearing will take place on January 6th.