WCRP housing project granted approval

There‚Äôs been de­bate throughout the sum­mer over the pro­posed con­struc­tion of the Nitza Tufino town homes, which would house low-in­come fam­il­ies along Front and Nor­ris streets. The Zon­ing Board of Ap­prov­al says yes; oth­ers still say no.

The Phil­adelphia Zon­ing Board of Ad­just­ment has ap­proved a pro­posed plan by the Wo­man’s Com­munity Re­vital­iz­a­tion Pro­ject that would de­mol­ish two bank build­ings on Front and Nor­ris streets and re­place them with low-in­come hous­ing.

The WCRP’s pro­posed Nitza Tufino town­houses were ap­proved in a 3-0 vote by the ZBA on Aug. 14. The pro­ject has been a source of con­ten­tion among com­munity groups, res­id­ents and oth­er con­cerned in­di­vidu­als in the neigh­bor­hood.

Loc­ated on 1942 N. Front St., In­dus­tri­al Trust, Title & Sav­ings and Ninth Na­tion­al Bank would be re­placed by three ad­join­ing row houses com­prised of 25 liv­ing units, one com­munity space and 10 park­ing spaces on Hope Street, loc­ated dir­ectly be­hind the bank build­ings.

Al­though all street front­ages will be three stor­ies, the rear parts of some build­ings will be just one or two stor­ies, ac­cord­ing to Paul Ayles­worth, de­vel­op­ment team co­ordin­at­or for the WCRP.

ldquo;I think it’s go­ing to be really great for the neigh­bor­hood,” said Nora Lichtash, ex­ec­ut­ive dir­ect­or for WCRP.

The Fishtown Neigh­bors As­so­ci­ation and East Kens­ing­ton Neigh­bors As­so­ci­ation ar­gue, however, that the pro­posed plan will hinder com­mer­cial de­vel­op­ment in the area.

Jordan Rush­ie, at­tor­ney for the FNA, notes that sev­er­al new busi­nesses, like Leo­tah’s Place cof­fee shop at 2033 E. York St., and Buzz Caf&ea­cute; at 1800 N. Howard St., have emerged in the com­munity in the last two years.

“Res­id­en­tial units will hamper the bur­geon­ing eco­nom­ics of an up and com­ing com­mer­cial cor­ridor,” Rush­ie said.

The blog Hid­den City Phil­adelphia [hid­den­cityph­ila.org] re­por­ted that Rush­ie plans to work along­side a neigh­bor­hood res­id­ent to ap­peal the zon­ing board’s de­cision.

Lichtash stated com­mer­cial de­vel­op­ment in the area is cur­rently not feas­ible, cit­ing the find­ings of a June 2011 study au­thored by Urb­an Part­ners, a con­sult­ing firm that as­sists pub­lic, private and non­profit cli­ents with urb­an de­vel­op­ment pro­jects.

The study con­cluded that in the short term, re­tail and com­mer­cial op­por­tun­it­ies are “very lim­ited” in Front Street and Kens­ing­ton Av­en­ue dis­trict, and it’s not likely that re­tail uses will oc­cur in the next five to 10 years.

The bank build­ings’ his­tor­ic­al sig­ni­fic­ance in Kens­ing­ton has led loc­al res­id­ents, the FNA and EKNA to fur­ther op­pose their de­moli­tion.

“The bank build­ing is a his­tor­ic part of Kens­ing­ton’s tex­tile in­dustry,” Rush­ie said.

The bank build­ings are two of 44 par­cels are part of a pro­posed “them­at­ic dis­trict” for list­ing on the Na­tion­al Re­gister of His­tor­ic Places, ac­cord­ing to Lo­gan Fer­guson, seni­or as­so­ci­ate at Powers & Co., a na­tion­al con­sult­ing firm which spe­cial­izes in pre­serving his­tor­ic struc­tures.

“They are un­usu­al ex­amples of high-style com­mer­cial build­ings in an oth­er­wise ex­tremely in­dus­tri­al part of Phil­adelphia,” Fer­guson said.

She ad­ded the build­ings also sym­bol­ize the fin­an­cial his­tory of the neigh­bor­hood — a his­tory that made the in­dus­tri­al­iz­a­tion of the area pos­sible.

“As no neigh­bor­hood is ever solely un­der one cat­egory or an­oth­er, I think it is im­port­ant that fab­ric rep­res­ent­ing the en­tire his­tory of Kens­ing­ton be re­tained,” she said.

The build­ings could be re­developed with the help of grants made avail­able if they are in­cluded in the his­tor­ic dis­trict, but more reg­u­la­tions would also be im­ple­men­ted re­gard­ing their de­moli­tion, Fer­guson said.

Al­though WCRP provides hous­ing to low-in­come res­id­ents in the com­munity, Rush­ie notes that that both the dens­ity res­ult­ing from the pro­posed plan as well as its loc­a­tion drives the com­munity groups’ op­pos­i­tion.

He notes res­id­ents will be crammed in­to small units and that Front Street is not a suit­able res­id­en­tial space giv­en the street’s corner bar, pros­ti­tu­tion, drugs and oth­er crime.

Neigh­bor­hood res­id­ents echoed sim­il­ar con­cerns at com­munity meet­ings throughout the sum­mer.

“Low-in­come res­id­ents de­serve bread, but they also de­serve roses, too,” Rush­ie said.

Ac­cord­ing to Lichtash, the WCRP is wait­ing un­til next spring for a de­cision from the state on wheth­er the pro­ject will re­ceive low-in­come tax cred­its.

If the or­gan­iz­a­tion re­ceives them, con­struc­tion will be­gin in the spring of 2014.

Re­port­er Paulina Malek can be reached at tuc72153@temple.edu.

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