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. ••