We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Germantown is one of the most gorgeous and special neighborhoods in the entire city. The property at 42-68 Church Lane, a block or so away from the famous Belgian block street and another project we checked on last year, is not one of the most gorgeous properties in the entire city, however. The building was previously home to Nolen Building Materials, and now developers have an eye toward a residential conversion for this industrial-zoned property.

An aerial shows building and surface lot currently on site

Olympia Holdings have big plans for the property… literally. The project calls for a design from KJO Architecture, with 148 units over five stories. And in a story that shows the haphazard nature of the current Registered Community Organization (RCO) structure, the public out-reach for this project has been complicated. Since Philadelphia for some reason allows for RCOs to overlap (amongst many other concerns), the Councilmember’s office determines which groups will be in charge of the community reach out process. In this instance, Councilmember Bass selected both Faith Community Development Corporation and the 12th Ward Democratic Committee to run the required community meetings, and you can watch the first one from April in its entirety below.

In news that should surprise no one, neighbors were none too fond of the project, stating that it was a “behemoth” that was out of scale for the neighborhood. The project is indeed seeking a variance due to the proposed residential usage, which is not allowed under its industrial zoning. Plans call for 148 units, with nearly all consisting of two bedrooms. The facade is almost exclusively a light tan brick, with similar-sized windows along the entire facade, with small indentations to break up the massing. Dark paneling is utilized in the open courtyard area, which will be a landscaped amenity for residents. Additionally, a small roof deck will be complemented by a green roof that will sit atop the five-story structure, which is wedged into the unusual property shape.

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An aerial look of the project from Church Lane
Another aerial shows the shape of the building, with an interior courtyard
A view of the back of the courtyard shows dark paneling and balconies
Ground floor plan shows layout and car circulation

As to the confusion regarding the RCO process, there’s more! Two other local RCOs – Bayton Hill Neighbors Association and SoLo Germantown – were upset that they were given little notice to the first meeting, proposing to postpone it, before it took place in late April. As such, yet ANOTHER group – Germantown United, a community development corporation – held ANOTHER meeting for the community that was not affiliated with the RCO or zoning process just a couple weeks back, though we are short on details of what transpired there.

There may be more info (and an updated design) coming to a June 14th meeting, which was mentioned in said meeting announcement. A ZBA hearing is scheduled for August, but Civic Design Review approval is needed before the ZBA hearing can take place. Assuming CDR happens in July, there will be an opportunity for a return visit in early August, ahead of the scheduled ZBA hearing. If CDR doesn’t happen in July, we could see the ZBA date get pushed back to the fall. Long story short? We will likely see an updated project sometime soon… presented to some group… perhaps with changes, perhaps without, and then the City agencies will have a chance to weigh in on the development. So buckle up, Germantown, it’s likely to be a bumpy and wild ride.