Grace Townhomes zoning vote delayed

Port Rich­mond neigh­bors di­vided over de­vel­op­ment for low-in­come renters.

The Phil­adelphia Zon­ing Board of Ad­just­ment’s hear­ing on the pro­posed Grace Town­homes de­vel­op­ment was post­poned un­til Wed­nes­day, March 26, to en­able the de­veloper to meet be­fore­hand with a com­munity group.

The zon­ing board’s hear­ing, where the board would have voted on wheth­er to ap­prove the Port Rich­mond de­vel­op­ment, had been sched­uled for Wed­nes­day, Feb. 12.

The Wo­men’s Com­munity Re­vital­iz­a­tion Pro­ject, the non­profit de­veloper be­hind the pro­ject, re­ques­ted to delay the zon­ing board hear­ing so that it could meet with Somer­set Neigh­bors for Bet­ter Liv­ing be­fore­hand, ac­cord­ing to Paul Ayles­worth, WCRP’s de­vel­op­ment team co­ordin­at­or.

WCRP had planned to give a present­a­tion on its planned de­vel­op­ment at the com­munity or­gan­iz­a­tion’s Feb­ru­ary meet­ing, but a snowstorm forced that meet­ing to be can­celed.

WCRP will give the present­a­tion at the group’s next meet­ing on Monday, March 3, at 6:30 p.m. at the Com­munity Wo­men’s Edu­ca­tion Pro­ject at Frank­ford Av­en­ue and Somer­set Street. Res­id­ents will be able to vote on wheth­er they sup­port the pro­ject, which may help in­form the zon­ing board’s de­cision.

In re­cent weeks, com­munity mem­bers have de­bated the pro­ject, which would bring 36 rent­al units to 2201 E. Au­burn St. by early 2016.

Some thought build­ing new homes on a block that has been va­cant for dec­ades was a no brain­er, while oth­ers ar­gued that low-in­come rent­al hous­ing would not be the best way to re­vital­ize the neigh­bor­hood.

“I am not a fan of this pro­ject,” Chris Ly­ons pos­ted on Face­book. “In hopes that Port Rich­mond even­tu­ally grows in prop­erty value like our neigh­bor­ing com­munit­ies to the south, Fishtown and North­ern Liber­ties, I don’t think we need more af­ford­able hous­ing for low in­come res­id­ents here. Sort of op­pos­ite to the dir­ec­tion we need to go in.”

In late Janu­ary, the Port Rich­mond Com­mu­nity Group voted 18-5 in fa­vor of the pro­posed de­vel­op­ment, with sev­er­al mem­bers of the neigh­bor­ing Firm Hope Baptist Church at­tend­ing in sup­port.

An­oth­er com­munity or­gan­iz­a­tion rep­res­ent­ing the neigh­bor­hood, Port Rich­mond on Patrol and Civic, de­ferred on the is­sue to Port Rich­mond Com­munity Group.

“We de­ferred ourselves from it and let PRCG handle it be­cause it dir­ectly af­fects the people down on the lower end as op­posed to the mem­bers that come out to PRO­PAC’s meet­ing,” PRO­PAC pres­id­ent Ken­neth Paul said.

The zon­ing board hear­ing will take place at 1515 Arch St., 18th floor, on Wedes­day, March 26, at 2 p.m.

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