As gentrification sweeps the city of Philadelphia, current residents provided their concerns toward new developments in the Bella Vista neighborhood.
On June 11th, members of the community met with the neighborhood zoning committee, project developer U.S. Construction Incorporated and architects from JKR Partners at the Palumbo Recreation Center on 10th & Fitzwater streets to discuss a new cluster of residences to be built on the 800 block of Montrose Street.
Twenty-four new townhouses are in plans for production at the location of a former 7-UP plant. The community debated questions including street parking, construction hours and wishes for open community space in the development dubbed, “Mildred Court.”
With recent news of buildings collapsing in Philadelphia, community members on the block are concerned about the safety of their own homes during the construction.
In the neighborhood of Bella Vista, garden walls recently collapsed at a construction site on 8th and South streets, mere blocks from the proposed development.
“If anything goes wrong, we’ll fix it,” assured John Farina from U.S. Construction Inc. “We build 150 houses a year.”
Farina promised the integrity of his company, along with certificates of liability for residents who may be affected by the production of the new development.
U.S. Constructions Inc. plans on spending the next year building two dozen residential townhomes, each approximately 2,000 square feet. These buildings are designated within CMX-2 zoning, which are residential-commercial mixed use.
The development is financed by a group of private investors, representatives from U.S. Constructions Inc. said.
Other specifics of the construction were picked apart by those in attendance. Debates ranged from the daily hours of construction, to street versus dedicated parking to the creation of green space specifically for community members.
“My concern is not for your client,” explained Dawn Fallik of 8th and Catharine streets. “It’s for getting it done quickly.”
Fallik has lived on the block for the past decade. She is concerned about how the construction company is communicating with the residents.
While the overall assembly debated specific questions, the general consensus is in support of the new townhouses. Those who lived in the immediate vicinity of the block, such as Chris Love, had the gravest concerns
“I like that you have a wide verity of people in that area and I don’t want that to change,” said Love. “I don’t want just people paying $2,800 a month for a luxurious three-bedroom house with granite countertops. That’s not what I want my only neighbors to be.”
Love resides on the corner of 9th and Montrose streets in one of the oldest houses in the neighborhood. One of the few current residents of the block to be developed, he has owned his house for four years.
Love said he is not concerned with the changes of property value, but rather the environment the development may create. He noted these new townhouses may be occupied by renters who could not possess the same investment in the neighborhood.
“I’m not opposed to renters because we’ve all been renters at some point,” said Love. “It’s been study after study that a neighborhood of renters doesn’t keep their neighborhood looking as nice as a neighborhood of owners. Having said all that I don’t want to live in a posh super rich neighborhood.”
Fritz Mirzanschall, member of the Bella Vista Town Watch and Co-Chair of the Zoning Committee, is optimistic about the constructions. Although there are concerns about the specifics, he said he believes everyone will be satisfied and happy.
“A number of residents have a lot of concerns. Parking is a big concern for many residents, curb cuts are a big concern for other residents,” said Mirzanschall. “There’s a whole variety because you have many different types of people living in Bella Vista.”
The Bella Vista Town Watch was originally formed to combat crime, vandalism and street trash in the neighborhood and now also represents community interests in developments proceedings and property disputes.
The next step is for the zoning committee, U.S. Constructions Inc. and JKR Partners to produce a letter to the City of Philadelphia with the concerns addressed over the construction of Mildred Court.