By Julie Zeglen
Port Richmond on Patrol and Civic (PROPAC) voted 12-13 against the proposed conversion of an abandoned factory building into a 52-unit apartment complex at a divisive meeting last Thursday.
The site is located at 3560-62 Sepviva Street. Proposed by Daniel J. Lasdon Real Estate, the apartments would be sold at market rate and include an outdoor recreation area.
No changes would be made to the façade of the building besides window replacements. The developer’s proposal was originally rejected by the City Planning Commission because the space is zoned for industrial purposes rather than residential.
Also under the plan, the lot located across from the building at 2200 E. Tioga Street would be converted into private-access parking for the complex’s residents.
The exact number of parking spaces has not yet been determined, but the developer’s plan includes at least one space for every apartment, with a capability of up to 114 spaces. Only 26 spaces are required by the city.
The development proposal was also presented on Feb. 27 to the Port Richmond Community Group, which approved it 13-1.
Other groups have reportedly tried to purchase the site before, without success.
Sean McMonagle, a legislative assistant for Councilman Mark Squilla, was in attendance at the meeting and was asked why Philadelphia Tramrail Baler and Compactor, a local business located a block away from the complex on E. Ontario Street, had not attempted to purchase the site.
“The Philadelphia Tramrail is aware that that parcel is available and has been for quite some time,” he said. “There have been environmental issues with the parcel, which are probably cost-prohibitive for [them] to acquire it, so that’s why they have never taken it, as far as I know.”
Those environmental issues were tied to concerns about parking.
The lot, currently owned by the city, is tested every few months for dangerous chemicals.
“Whatever was there before left something in the ground,” McMonagle said. “Nobody knows the extent of what it is, so as long as you don’t disturb it, you’re fine.”
Meeting attendees pointed out, though, that the land would be disturbed if parking spaces were laid over it, and that green space would need to be created around the area to catch drainage from the lot.
“Those sewers on Sepviva Street are not big enough to handle all that,” resident Helen Ladavich said.
After a long discussion about how the lot would get drained, Lasdon representative Joseph Beller, Esq. assured residents of the firm’s adherence to code.
“Let me make one thing very clear: if we get this, and it works out the way we’re proposing, we will meet all conditions,” he said. “Nobody’s going to go in there and throw blacktop down and say, ‘To hell with everybody.’ We’ve already started meeting with various city agents. Nothing will be done without permits.”
Other attendees were worried about the young professionals who the developers hope will fill the apartments.
“We have a problem in our neighborhood with parties, loud music,” one neighbor said. “Will there be trash in the parking lot?”
Beller responded that apartment applicants would go through a background check to be approved, and that surveillance cameras and lights would be installed outside of the building.
“We have noise clauses in our leases,” he said, adding that rule-breaking tenants would be evicted.
Ladavich, whose family owns Ladavich Excavation and Plumbing near the proposed complex on Venango, still worried that people moving into the lofts would contribute to the crime and drug problems in the area.
“Under that bridge [on Venango, adjacent to the site] right now as is, I’m always stopping someone from pulling over and shooting up in the park,” she said. “Security’s not stopping people from going under that bridge. We’re the ones that sit outside there, and we’re the ones that stop them.”
The Zoning Board of Adjustment will vote on whether or not to approve the developer’s appeal on Wednesday, March 19, at 2 p.m.
Other zoning proposals voted on at the meeting were the conversion of 3624 Balfour Street into a wholesale automotive equipment store and of 2302 E. Allegheny Avenue into a pharmacy. Bill Flannery Automotive was approved unanimously. Allegheny Health Pharmacy was approved 14-9. ••
Julie Zeglen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.