At the gateway of East Falls on Ridge Avenue, surrounded by a chain-link fence, lays a large empty lot known as “The Rivage.”
Gina Snyder, the executive director of the East Falls Development Corp., looks to this site and sees the future of the local business district. In December, the future may become much clearer.
“When there is something new and exciting there I think people will be more likely to come down to Ridge Avenue and live in the neighborhood. People will just feel a lot more pride in the neighborhood,” Snyder said.
Snyder is one of two representatives from the East Falls community appointed to be its voice and provide the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority with feedback on the project. Her job began in October when the RDA began accepting project proposals for the site’s future.
The proposals have since been narrowed down to two: The East Village and Onion Flats.
“Both proposals are actually quite similar. They’re apartments, mid-rise buildings over retail space. The East Village project is a project that had been selected before. It’s about 160 units of rental apartments with about anywhere from 8,000 to 15,000 square feet of retail space,” Snyder said.
While similar, each project has its own advantages. The East Village project would create a public space called “Gustine Walk” between the two buildings. Within this public space would be approximately 10,000 square feet of retail space. Onion Flats offers a more modern design in which the building will be a Net-zero energy community. Net-zero energy consumption means that all the energy used by the building will be generated on-site.
Snyder is also responsible for communicating any developments in the project to the community. Earlier this month she and the RDA held a public meeting in which the developers presented their proposals to the community members in attendance.
Tim Williamson, the owner of Slices Pizza in East Falls, said: “This is a site that has been abandoned for years and to develop it as something really interesting, something where people are going to live or people are going to drive by and say ‘Wow, let’s stop there.’”
As a local business owner, he is no stranger to the struggles of local businesses in the area. After seeing the presentations, he agreed that the project will breathe new life into the local economy.
“I liked [The East Village] as a business owner. It tended to push more of the commercial aspect and worked on bring people down to the river. It also had more parking.”
After the presentations, those present filled out a survey about each proposal. This is one way that Snyder is gauging the community’s response to the project. After tabulating the survey’s results, she presented them to the November East Falls Community Council meeting.
“The community as a whole was actually very positive about both proposals. They like them both. but they liked Onion Flats a lot more,” Snyder said
Williamson said he is pleased with how involved the community has been during the process of considering the proposals and hopes the open communication continues throughout its completion.
“We’ve been down this road a couple times, I think making sure it happens this time is one of the most important things. I think that the RDA can do their part in making sure the project doesn’t get lost in the bureaucracy of our government,” Williamson said.
If the RDA announces the chosen developer in December as planned, The Rivage project will be completed in 2015.