In Fishtown, neighbors recently voted in opposition to a project that would nearly double the density allowed by right at 1019-23 E Columbia Ave., and it wasn't even close. At a Fishtown Neighbors Association zoning meeting earlier this month, neighbors voted 2-39 not to support plans to convert a parcel under the heels of I-95 into nine new homes and three new duplexes—a total of 15 units
Designed by KJO Architecture, original plans called for the demolition of a warehouse set back near fifty feet Columbia's intersection with Salmon St. just before the I-95 overpass. As it were, the plans envisioned a Salmon Street fronting, which would have allowed developers to fit twelve new structures on an area that, according to Matt Karp, FNA zoning chair, is by right, suited for six or seven houses. Karp estimates that number by taking the total square footage of the lot—about 9700 sqft if you add up the size according to OPA numbers—and dividing it by the size allotted by the zoning code designation that applies to the property—1440 sqft—and you get seven (if you round up). The increased density waved a red flag among neighbors.
“The community didn't understand why they're doubling the amount of density that's allowed,” Karp said. He added that it was a large site, that could nicely accommodate six houses.
According to architect Kevin O'Neill, because the project was not approved at the community level “significant changes are likely to happen if the developer chooses to move forward.”
As development in Fishtown surges forward, we've covered numerous in-fill projects, transforming old garages and under-used properties into new residential opportunities. This may be one reason Fishtown neighbors are sensitive about increased density here. Nearby, there's the Columbia Ave. Connector, a streetscape improvement aimed to animate and ease the connection at the end of the block where it meets Delaware Ave. and turns into Penn Treaty Park. Meanwhile, a couple of blocks in the other direction at 1236 E Columbia there are plans (though slow moving) to turn an old church into 15 apartments. But before anything can happen here, developers will have to rethink their approach, meaning it'll still be some time before something, if anything, is constructed at the corner of Salmon & Columbia.