This past winter, when Mission First Housing Group announced plans to demolish the burned out building at 4534-36 Spruce St. and construct affordable housing, there was a sigh of relief. Since catching fire in 2011, the building that previously hosted the Transition to Independent Living Center has sat unoccupied, a bruise in an otherwise very strong Spruce Hill neighborhood.
However, due in part to budget issues, namely, not having had funds allocated for the 24-unit affordable housing project, Mission First has tabled their proposal, West Philly Local has reported. Instead, the building is for sale. WPL indicated that one neighbor in particular was aggressively opposed to the project and planned to appeal any favorable ruling from the ZBA. This mirrors comments Barry Grossbach, Spruce Hill Community Association's zoning chair, made to us several months ago, about various concerns voiced by neighbors. At that time, developers were in conversation with the SHCA, community and neighbors for months. Those conversations were related to height and massing, not the fact that these units were planned as affordable housing. With the building now for sale, it's a shame to see something so long and so far along fizzle out.
This winter Grossbach told us it'd be nice to have something in this location that wasn't the guts of a burned building, suggesting the community was perhaps open to the project. But whether it was the massing of the project, NIMBY attitudes from neighbors, budget issues for the developer, or some combination of the three, the project isn't going to happen. With a 9,000+ sqft footprint, the property has surely garnered several quality offers, and we would not be surprised if we revisit this address before the end of the year with news of a new plan. We'll also bet that it's not gonna be affordable housing.