Several residents from Northeast Philadelphia logged into a public meeting hosted by the Greater Bustleton Civic League over Zoom on Tuesday, Oct. 27 to give UPS and CDC feedback on a proposed development at 1 Red Lion Rd., the former Budd Company site.
United Parcel Service and Commercial Development Company (CDC) intend to build a warehouse on the parcel, which is a brownfield site—a previously polluted parcel of land that must undergo environmental remediation before it can be developed. The property borders Lower Moreland Township and has changed hands several times over the years. A lack of information about potential development has left residents frustrated and confused in the past.
After a brief introduction from Steve Collins, executive vice president of CDC, Christos Dinoulis of Bohler Engineering presented detailed designs for the development, including increased landscaping around the site, a change from original plans based on feedback from community groups, he said.
“Roughly over 1,000 new plants are proposed around the perimeter of the site and within some of the parking fields,” Dinoulis said.
The roof is also designed to house solar panels. The perimeter of the 44-foot-tall warehouse will be made mostly of an insulated painted precast panel and its exterior is made of aluminum and glass, as seen in Bohler’s site rendering.
But, as representatives of UPS and CDC presented their plans, local residents took to the Zoom chat to demand answers for some of the issues they had with the site.
“Will the sound walls prevent all noise from disturbing the residents who live along Red Lion Road?” resident Matt Jackson asked. “The sound of the trucks, the back up beeping, etc.? We’re not buying what you’re peddling.”
Despite residents’ apparent opposition, the project managers continued to present, noting that the proposed warehouse would serve two main purposes: to provide a convenient UPS location between Center City and the surrounding suburbs and to create new jobs.
“This project is part of a larger investment throughout the Commonwealth,” Mark Giuffre, vice president of state government affairs at UPS, said. “We’re building new hubs to create and serve the needs of the customers, the growing need and demand for e-commerce [and] for delivery services during COVID.”
The site is appealing to UPS because it is located in an ideal spot to help UPS trucks efficiently deliver packages to customers in the Philadelphia region and beyond, Giuffre said.
Local residents disagreed.
“The location chosen for this project is totally wrong without considering residents,” Jackson said.
Giuffre said the project would bring up to 1,200 jobs to the neighborhood, with 356 of those jobs being full time employees.
But residents’ expressed doubts about the creation of new jobs, arguing that technological automations in the warehouse would create fewer new jobs than what UPS and CDC had originally promoted.
“The automation is not designed to replace employees,” said Giuffre. “It’s designed to make us more efficient in processing the goods.”
He also mentioned part time job opportunities for students in the area.
“We do have part time jobs on site as well for students that also receive tuition benefits,” he said. “These are all new jobs.”
Russ Becker, head of sustainability for UPS, also discussed environmentally conscious policies in place across UPS.
“By 2020, one in four vehicles we purchase will employ alternate fuel or advanced technology,” he said. “By 2025, 40% of all ground fuel will come from sources other than conventional fuels.”
Since work began on the site in 2018, the warehouse development has been one of the most disputed ongoing projects in the neighborhood, and many critics have pointed to the increased traffic UPS trucks coming and going from the site would bring to the surrounding neighborhood.
Despite residents gathering on the Zoom call to push back against the warehouse, UPS and CDC plan to move forward. The site is zoned for industrial use, and the companies’ plans fit within permitted uses outlined in the City of Philadelphia’s zoning code.
“This is an industrial site,” Giuffre said. “While there’s residences around here, many UPS locations are [on] similar types of sites: industrial areas that service the communities.”
While emotions were high during Tuesday’s meeting, UPS and CDC officials hoped to establish a good relationship with already dissatisfied citizens and neighbors.
“The residents are our employees and our team,” Giuffre said.
Although the project leaders spent a majority of the meeting going over project details as thoroughly as possible, residents and meeting participants’ stayed on the call to continue to voice their concerns.
Marlene Markowitz, who lives near the site, was not afraid to state her complaints about the process thus far directly to the presenters.
“We in the community are the ones receiving all these problems, not you,” she said. “It’s quite serious, and we are quite concerned because we are a dense, heavily populated neighborhood with children [and] schools. You are not answering us because you are trying to snow us.”
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