15th St., between Ellsworth and Federal Sts., is not a desirable block. On the northern end of the street, a not-so-safe bar. On the southern end, a beer distributor, a bodega, and a beer and steaks shop serve up the essentials. Midblock, a number of dilapidated and/or vacant homes are mixed with vacant lots, large garages, and an auto body shop. Fortunately, Wilson Drake Development LLC has a plan to rehab two of the worst homes on the block, 1148-50 S. 15th St.
At the ZBA hearing in November, developer Lorraine Wilson-Drake explained her company’s plan to tear down the two homes and replace them with three story homes that come up to the front of the property line (rather than being set back, as they currently are). After consulting with the community group(s), Ms. Wilson-Drake agreed to add a parking space in the rear of each property, and reduce the number of units from five to four in each building. As a result, the developers had a letter of support from said community group(s).
In spite of Wilson-Drake’s willingness to compromise, a cadre of ladies who live in the neighborhood, led by one particularly aggressive individual, attended the ZBA hearing in opposition of this project. They couched their opposition as the true voice of the community, lambasting the developer for not communicating enough (seemingly impossible), constructing properties with too much density (couldn’t be done on this block), and proposing buildings that don’t fit in the character of the block (completely preposterous). Why anyone would fight positive development on a block like this is beyond us. They couldn’t want things to stay the way they are, could they?
Despite this perplexing opposition, we understand that the developer did receive the requested variances. Good news for a block that hasn’t had much in years.
Update: We spoke with the developer, and they were denied their requested variances for both properties. According to the developer, the project had support from South Philadelphia H.O.M.E.S. as well as everyone currently living on the block. How the opposition of a small group of people who don’t live on the street could supercede the support of near neighbors is positively incomprehensible.
Wilson-Drake will be appealing the ZBA’s decision.