Earlier this month, developers from Greenpoint Developers, an offshoot of Tower Investments, presented plans to the Fishtown Neighbors Association to demolish a church at 1401-09 Marlborough St. and construct six homes with off-street parking in its place. The community was not impressed.

Church plus zoning notices

Neighbors interpreted the project as an attempt to squeeze a sixth house onto a too-small parcel, which led to a vote of five in support and thirty-one opposed at an FNA zoning meeting. Before anything can be built here, the former Pilgrim Congressional United Church of Christ, which we wrote about over the summer when it had just gone under contract, will have to be demolished. According to Matt Karp, FNA zoning chair, after the presentation, members of the community talked and were able to pinpoint one decisive issue with the project that concerned them; the sixth house. Designed by Paul Drzal, the project proposed five single-family homes facing Marlborough Street with an awkwardly squeezed-in sixth house accessed on Belgrade Street, but pretty much facing the backs of the five homes on Marlborough Street.

Project rendering

See the rear unit?

“That was seen as pushing the density too much,” Karp said. The sixth house had an entrance on Belgrade, and was basically in other people's backyards, according to Karp. “It basically has a snout that comes down to the ground and that's your entrance.” By right, developers can build four homes here. So, Karp said, he explained before the meeting this was largely an issue of what developers are proposing versus what developers can build by right. 

As it turns out, the developers agreed in the end to axe the sixth unit. They got approval yesterday from the ZBA for five homes at this address. This means that another Philadelphia church will soon meet the wrecking ball, so we suggest going to see it in person soon before it's just a memory.