Far be it from us to tell developers what to do- heaven knows we don’t always know the right approach for a given property. But we’re starting to feel pretty confident with the feedback that developers shouldn’t try to get a variance for a multi-family project in Fishtown without providing parking. It seems that every time we see such a project come down the pike, it runs into a brick wall of neighborhood opposition. Let’s look at 1502-08 Frankford Ave., the latest example of this phenomenon.
As you might guess from the address, this property doesn’t include the vacant lot at the corner, but does include the three story building with the zoning notice and the two garages next door. Developers bought the property last year and have proposed tearing down the existing buildings and constructing a mixed-use building in their place. That five-story building would include 28 apartments, commercial on the ground floor, and no parking. At the FNA zoning meeting last month, the community voted 40-11 against the project. We weren’t at the meeting, but we’d think that the opposition had to do with the fact that the developers were looking to build 8 more apartments than they could include by right and the resulting parking challenges that would create. The project is slated to go to the ZBA, but we don’t think it will fare very well, given the overwhelming opposition from the community. And what a shame, the building would’ve been pretty nice.
This proposal is a study in contrast with the approach taken by developers just across the street, at the former Penn Treaty Metals property. Those developers could have built a 32 unit building with no parking, but came to the community needing a variance for a proposal for 30 units and 16 parking spaces. And that only got community support by the narrowest of margins. Then it got ZBA approval, and we’re hearing construction should be starting very soon.
Another approach, which we generally favor most of all, was taken by the developers actively working on a project on the next block. At 1434 Frankford Ave., developers are building a mixed-use building with 10 apartments, and they’re doing it by right.
Depending on what happens at the ZBA, this might end up happening up the block at 1502 Frankford Ave., though those developers will be able to build 20 units by right. Not the worst outcome in the end, though it certainly wouldn’t provide the same return on investment as the denser project that’s currently proposed.