Saint Mary of the Assumption, a Catholic Church located on a large campus at 171 Conarroe St. in Manayunk, closed its doors a little over a year ago. This came just a few years after the archdiocese merged Saint Mary's with the St. John the Baptist parish in response to dwindling membership and attendance. For people who grew up at this church, this was surely a tough pill to swallow. But this has been a common theme across the city, with numerous churches closing in recent years and the announcement of additional closings coming in today's paper. While the closing of Saint Mary's was tough for many former parishioners, it represented an opportunity for developer Jack Bienenfeld, who now has the massive property under agreement.
You can see, the property is huge and includes the church, a rectory, a school, a convent, and a big parking lot. The parcel is zoned for single family use and could probably accommodate over dozen homes pretty comfortably, assuming reuse of the former church and school. But that's not what the developer is looking to do. Instead, they're working on a project with architects from Campbell Thomas for an apartment complex on the site which would have about 100 units and 130 parking spaces for residents. Councilman Jones is reportedly looking to rezone the property so that the project would proceed by right. Manayunk Neighborhood Council, the local community group, is not into this even a little bit.
We got a flyer for a community meeting scheduled for Wednesday night at which MNC will update neighbors on the status of the project. The flyer is pretty direct about how the community group regards the project and the process, calling a zoning overlay "unnecessary and unacceptable" and saying the overlay would "hijack the zoning process." Along with pushing back against the density, MNC is looking for a project that includes some community parking as well as some parking for the nearby North Light Community Center. The flyer concludes by declaring that the development is "bad for the community." Strong words.
We have no idea how this thing will ultimately go and whether Councilman Jones will accede to the desires of the community group. If he does, there's still a chance the project could get approval at the ZBA without an ordinance but we are somewhat pessimistic about how that might go. What do you think? Should there be density at this location? Or does a development with mostly townhomes make more sense here? For more info, the meeting will take place on Wednesday night at 7:30pm at the aforementioned North Light Community Center. If you're able to attend, please feel free to report back.