Market-rate lofts proposed for Sepviva Street

De­velopers are seek­ing ap­prov­al to con­vert an aban­doned Port Rich­mond fact­ory in­to 52 apart­ments with an ad­ja­cent park­ing lot.

  • This lot on Tioga Street is proposed to become a private-access parking lot for the complex. JULIE ZEGLEN / STAR PHOTO

  • An abandoned factory on Sepviva Street, as seen facing Tioga Street from Venango Street, may be converted into apartments. JULIE ZEGLEN / STAR PHOTO

At a meet­ing last Thursday, the Port Rich­mond Com­munity Group voted 13-1 in sup­port of a pro­posed 52-unit apart­ment com­plex to be loc­ated at 3560-62 Sepviva St. 

The apart­ments, con­cep­tu­al­ized by Daniel J. Las­don Real Es­tate, would fill an aban­doned fact­ory that cur­rently sits at the site. 

The space would con­tain eight one-bed­room apart­ments at about 900 square feet and 44 two-bed­room apart­ments at about 1,300-1,400 square feet, Las­don rep­res­ent­at­ive Joseph Beller said at the meet­ing. They would be ren­ted at mar­ket rate in an es­tim­ated range of $900 to $1,200 per month. 

Bordered by Ven­ango Street to the north, Tioga Street to the south, and un­used rail­road tracks to the west, the build­ing is con­nec­ted to a stretch of land that would be used as a re­cre­ation area, in­clud­ing a dog run, for the com­plex’s res­id­ents. Pre­lim­in­ary ren­der­ings for the space also show pic­nic benches and a grill in a garden area. 

Ad­di­tion­ally, an empty lot loc­ated across from the site at 2200 E. Tioga St. would be con­ver­ted in­to at least 52 private-ac­cess park­ing spaces for the com­plex’s res­id­ents, sur­roun­ded by a fence. 

The de­veloper’s pro­pos­al was ori­gin­ally re­jec­ted by the City Plan­ning Com­mis­sion be­cause the space is zoned for in­dus­tri­al pur­poses rather than res­id­en­tial. 

The de­veloper will ap­peal to the Zon­ing Board of Ad­just­ment on Wed­nes­day, March 19, to grant the vari­ance that will al­low the pro­ject to move for­ward. 

“It was used for com­mer­cial and in­dus­tri­al reas­ons for a num­ber of years, and it’s empty and va­cant now,” Beller said. The city’s re­jec­tion did not in­clude the pro­posed park­ing area. 

Las­don has been be­hind oth­er ren­ov­ated loft com­plexes like those at the former sponge, lamp and tie factor­ies in North­ern Liber­ties, as well as the Cor­inthi­an Apart­ments on the 900 block of Cor­inthi­an Av­en­ue near the art mu­seum. 

When asked by a meet­ing at­tendee if Port Rich­mond res­id­ents could trust the de­velopers to main­tain the in­teg­rity of the area, Beller re­spon­ded: “The people be­hind it have been in this neigh­bor­hood a long, long time and have re­hab­il­it­ated oth­er build­ings. They have owned prop­erty in this neigh­bor­hood.” He also said the ren­ov­ated build­ing would not be avail­able for re­sale once com­pleted. 

This was the first time the group had heard of the pro­pos­al. An at­tendee asked why those who lived in the neigh­bor­hoods sur­round­ing the block had not been no­ti­fied of the pro­pos­al earli­er, but the ques­tion went un­ad­dressed. 

In a phone in­ter­view a few days be­fore the meet­ing, PRCG Pres­id­ent Theresa Cos­tello was op­tim­ist­ic about the pos­sib­il­ity of re­viv­ing the neigh­bor­hood. 

“I ac­tu­ally think mar­ket rate will be an im­prove­ment,” she said. “Right now it’s a great big old empty build­ing. Aban­doned factor­ies can be very dan­ger­ous.

“I would hope it at­tracts young pro­fes­sion­als, artists, hip­sters, et cet­era – people who would be in­volved in join­ing our com­munity groups and bring im­prove­ment to an area trans­ition­ing back out of de­cline. I would hope that this will pro­mote new, cool busi­nesses and artist­ic places that are hap­pen­ing along Frank­ford Av­en­ue in Fishtown and [bring at­ten­tion] over our way.”

She al­lowed that the trans­ition­al nature of such a com­plex could bring prob­lems, though, re­call­ing last year’s Land­vest con­tro­versy that left de­veloper Robert Coyle in fed­er­al pris­on and hun­dreds of his former prop­er­ties in dis­repair. 

“Neigh­bors are cau­tious right now and rightly so,” she said. “Phil­adelphia has a big prob­lem with slum­lords or ab­sent­ee land­lords and people in our area have some bad ex­per­i­ences with that. I think we’re kind of care­ful about apart­ments and renters in gen­er­al. Port Rich­mond is largely homeown­er­ship.” 

At the meet­ing, loc­al res­id­ent Jen­nifer Bytof said that the de­vel­op­ment could be an im­prove­ment. 

“It’s bet­ter than a va­cant build­ing,” she said. 

Of­fit Kur­man At­tor­neys at Law will present the plan again this Thursday to PRO­PAC (Port Rich­mond on Patrol and Civic) at the Samuel Re­cre­ation Cen­ter on Gaul Street at 7 p.m. The Zon­ing Board of Ad­just­ment will vote on wheth­er or not to ap­prove the ap­peal on Wed­nes­day, March 19, at 2 p.m. ••

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