To the Editor:
Recently, a developer proposed the building of an apartment complex on the parking lot site at 13th and Shunk streets. The amenities would have been first-class (hardwood flooring, granite countertops, etc.) and the units would not have been subject to subsidized housing. Said contractor had a strong track record of fine, upscale projects, namely, the new Independence Court housing at Front and Christian streets. In addition, a possible long-term goal of the site would have been for the apartments to ‘go condo.’
This would have been a huge opportunity for the neighborhood, bringing up property values, infusing the area with new life and stabilizing it for the distant future. But, sadly, many of the residents could not see past losing the parking lot. There also were concerns about traffic and the effect of construction on the neighborhood. All of the above concerns have a degree of validity, but frankly they pale in comparison to losing out on this valuable opportunity.
First off, the City will not keep it a parking lot forever. Philadelphia is in dire need of tax dollars, and currently the site pays no property tax. Second, and more importantly, the site is already zoned a commercial space. The developer was willing to work with the neighborhood to refine the plan. Admittedly, the requested height of the building was a stretch of the norm, but a proposal of plan adjustment was put forward at the community meeting, which was not required. It was a gesture of good faith toward the neighbors. We will not be so lucky if the site is purchased by a low-end corporate retail chain, fast-food establishment or slumlord.
So, here’s hoping Dollar Tree, KFC or an anonymous real-estate investor group from New York City isn’t on the lookout for a site to develop.
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