A $1 million tear-down
But how much can a for-profit developer really be expected to do?
B.S.K.M.’s design team argued that they have taken concerns about accessibility seriously at a Tuesday hearing before the city’s Civic Design Review committee. They plan to build a path along the side of the wall, taking a shoulder of the road currently used for parking and transforming it into an eight-foot-wide expanse for pedestrians and a five-foot expanse for bikers.
The plan also calls for expanding the sidewalk on Tulip Street, which runs under a dark and dreary overpass that dissuades all but the heartiest of pedestrians from walking north. B.S.K.M. plans to install lighting both on the wall and under the overpass to make the newly walkable areas safer.
In response to criticisms at a previous CDR meeting, the developer expanded the lobbies of the four buildings and de-emphasized parking to make them more friendly to pedestrians.
Some in the neighborhood wanted the developer to set aside space along the rear of the project for a future bike trail connecting the Delaware River Trail to the future American Avenue greenway along Lehigh. B.S.K.M. instead has proposed a staircase and elevator inside the apartment towers to allow for another trail on top of the wall. The developer has also committed to restoring the mural that covers its south-facing facade, responding to some in the neighborhood who have called for the art piece’s preservation.
But the developer won’t be addressing the community’s biggest ask: to remove the wall completely.
“The development team at this point has taken ownership of the wall and the elevated rail with no intention of removing it,” architect Chris Class of DesignBlendz said in a presentation to the Civic Design Review Board.
B.S.K.M hired a structural engineer to analyze the wall’s durability and to give an estimate of how much it would cost to remove it. After determining that they could legally tear down the wall —and the mural that covers its south-facing facade — they found that the wall is structurally sound and that razing it would cost well over $1 million.
B.S.K.M. and its lawyer, Rachael Pritzker, declined requests for comment.
Fury believes that whatever the developer decides, its impacts will extend far beyond the project site.
“Everyone recognizes that these projects represent a really big opportunity to change the neighborhood for the next several decades,” said Fury.
“A big opportunity to change the neighborhood”
The community groups still have some leverage. The Pumphouse just completed its Civic Design Review process. Now the project moves to the city’s Zoning Board of Adjustment with requests for three variances.
Public meetings are required before CDR and ZBA hearings, and with the ZBA, the support of neighborhood groups can help secure variances. The 2157 parcel is zoned for industrial commercial mixed-use, which means its needs zoning relief for any housing to be built at all.
The project will appear before the zoning board in September. It remains to be seen where the neighborhood groups will come down on it.
Fury will be there.
“I see our role as ensuring the development that comes to our neighborhood can be an asset in as many ways for as many neighbors as possible,” she said.