ZONING NOTICE: More Demolition of Old Stuff Near the EL

OK... I had a difficult time tracing down who is behind this ZBA application but I think I have it. This is the bank building and the theater that's by the Berks St. EL station.

Update: Looks like it's this non-profit doing it: http://www.wcrpphila.com/index.php/contact

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Kenzo's picture

Additional information I found thus far:

In 2010 there was an announcement to build low-income housing here titled as:
Nitza Tufino Townhomes
Development of 25 homes for very low-income families: $1.5 million.
Developer: Women’s Community Revitalization Project
Location: 1942-58 North Front St.

Source: http://www.phila.gov/ohcd/PRESS2010.html

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Kenzo's picture

Here's the ownership chain that I have worked out so far. "Community Justice Land [Trust?]" is the registered owner. EDIT: I traced that back to WCRP.

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Kenzo's picture

I'm raising an eyebrow that there's no information about this non-profit on Guidestar, other than their EIN number.

EDIT: It's an LLC ownership shell to hold the title to the property, I have learned. WCRP is the true owner.

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2014 york's picture

I really want to stop this. Those buildings could be saved and are far more useful than the church

Kenzo's picture

I want to know more about the proposal going here. I already contacted Councilman Squilla seeking answers and alerted NakedPhilly, PlanPhilly, etc. I'm thinking by Monday the planingblogosphere will jump on it.

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Kenzo's picture

It looks like this site has been in the OHCD plans for some time. According to this thing I found at the OHCD, it's marked as a subsidized rental project (Project 6).

This is coming from the OHCD consolidated plan for the city:
http://www.phila.gov/ohcd/conplan36/Year%2036%20Final%20for%20web.pdf

Quote:
In Year 35, the city proposed to support the construction of Front and Norris townhouses,
25 new- construction rental units for very low income families, developed by Women’s community
revitalization Project (WCRP), contingent on the award of Low-Income Housing tax credits by PHFA.
this development was selected through the 2009 Affordable Housing RFP.

This is all over the map. I see hints that it might be low-income rental. Or senior housing, or PHFA funded low interest mortgage-assistance owner townhomes. It's not clear. (Page 76)

It mentions the Women's Community Revitalization Project. (http://wcrpphila.com/) A Google scan of their website references no mention to this project.

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Kenzo's picture

Update: OK I found 2 more ties that seem to confirm this is the WCRP that is doing this development.

Hopefully there will be a planned community meeting so that people who want to know more about what is coming here can find out. I'd at least like to see if they have massing drawings and how they plan to do a rental project that has an earthquake every 7 minutes.

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Kenzo's picture

Second update: Fired off an email to see if the WCRP will comment on the proposal and if there are any planned public meetings.

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Kenzo's picture

OK, it looks like details are still murky about there being a community meeting concerning this ZBA proposal but it does impact all 3 civics that congeal at that intersection (EKNA, NCSA, FNA). Squilla's office is conferring to Councilwoman Quiñonez-Sánchez for a response.

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2014 york's picture

I spoke with Sanchez about this yesterday (neighbor). She's not happy and indicated that she would support stopping this if enough people get behind it. I may have misunderstood her though. Politicians speak a different language. I want to be careful what I type on this site...too many eyes.

ExUnit4's picture

Need to get Daryl Clarkes office too. Most of the real fishtown is covered by his district.

Speak softly, the dashboard cam has a very sensative microphone

Kenzo's picture

I don't have enough information to consider recommending a negative attitude to this project (no, I'm serious, really).

But now it appears on the surface that NONE of the civics were contacted prior to this very large development proposal being put on the ZBA calendar, in a very high visibility area.

That's a problem.

UPDATE: Looks like the civics on the east side of Front Street were not notified, but NSCA definitely knows because they sold the property to Women's Revitalization.

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2014 york's picture

The problem is not the proposed construction. it could be built anywhere. The problem is the demolition of a salvageable structure that can and will never be replaced. Those buildings deserve landmark status. Go take a really close look and you will see that the shell is still in very good condition. Unlike the church, these buildings could easily find new life. Onion Flats offered to buy them for their offices when owned by NSCA but I'm pretty sure the color of their skin didn't fit the vision. Criminal if you ask me.

Kenzo's picture

I found the project being mentioned in this old article from B Love. It also mentions Norris Square owning the site and it has some very, very interesting quotes from Pat DiCarlo (president, Norris Square Civic Association).

While I share your sentiment, Pat (from this article) appears to be ethno-centric to the point of racism, but it looks like she sold everything here in 2010. Then she paid off the mortgage on the parcels and WCRP took out a mortgage on the parcels (and NSCA holds the promissory note, so it's going to receive distributions from that)...

http://phillyskyline.com/possiblecity/possiblecity10.htm

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Kenzo's picture

Got back a reply from Ms. Quiñones-Sánchez

Quote:
My office will provide contact information for the project.

This is a joint project between Norris Square Civic Association (I am shocked they are unaware) and Women's Revitalization.

We look forward to the conversation.

Councilwoman Maria Quinones Sanchez

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lighterthief's picture

more destruction of history by NSCA for no good reason, I would love to see this stopped but the political forces behind it seem unstoppable. Trifecta of MQS, NCSA and WCRP.

Empty factories to the east and all our waste
The shape of things that came shows on the broken workers face

2014 york's picture

lighterthief wrote:
more destruction of history by NSCA for no good reason, I would love to see this stopped but the political forces behind it seem unstoppable. Trifecta of MQS, NCSA and WCRP.

Probably but it's still standing. It's possible that the outrage over the church demolition may stop this. I've spoken to many of my Norris Square neighbors and they are planning a community meeting to fight the Civic Associations plans for housing...both this site and the former church. It would be nice to see EKNA and FNA weigh in on this at the zoning meeting.

Kenzo's picture

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Kenzo's picture

OK some more stuff.

Here's from a zoning aide for MQS:

Quote:
This is Dan from Councilwoman Sanchez's office. Thanks for reaching out about the above property.

I ran the address through L&I, and they appealed to the ZBA on 3/15/12, so just a couple of weeks ago. They paid for an expedited hearing, so that would explain the short time in between their getting posted with the orange sticker and having a hearing scheduled so soon.

The attorney for the case, Mark Levin, can be reached at 215-572-7300 x 110
At WCRP, you should ask to speak with Jill Feldstein, who can be reached at

and 215-627-5550 x 218

I'm sure Jill would be happy to speak with you (and anyone for that matter), about their project and what it entails.

This property was acquired by the Women's Community Revitalization Project about a year or two ago, in anticipation of a new housing development. I had heard some rumblings back in September that they were petitioning neighbors and collecting signatures, but they weren't close to applying yet.

Hope this is helpful for now, i'll keep an eye on it as it moves forward. Please let me know if you have any other questions or if there's anything else I can provide right now,

And I also was contacted via e-mail from another person at WCRP this morning. I gave them the zoning contacts for FNA and EKNA and also asked that they publish their site plans on their website so we can at least see them, or at least be able to know when we can see them in person at a zoning meeting.

If we can't see what the site will even look like, where the curb cuts will go, or any of that fun stuff... then I see no other option but for me to personally turn up at the ZBA hearing and beg for a continuance until we can at least see the site plans.

2014, if it comes to that--I would like some close residents to also come with me to the ZBA hearing so we can at least have close neighbor representation at the hearing.

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Kenzo's picture

Ok I just got site elevations and a plan description from MQS's office. Trying to get them online right now.

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rgb's picture

Here's some photos I took inside the one bank building a couple years back. I think the building on the corner was also a bank, not a theater.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/rgb/sets/72157613649713639/

Kenzo's picture

Now that I've got the plans and site elevations for the Nitza Tufino Townhomes, I've opened this new thread for that:
http://fishtown.us/content/forum/nitza-tufino-townhomes-front-norris

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Kenzo's picture

rgb wrote:
Here's some photos I took inside the one bank building a couple years back. I think the building on the corner was also a bank, not a theater.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/rgb/sets/72157613649713639/

Thanks RGB! Yes both buildings were banks thanks to this CityPaper article discussing the bank buildings from years ago. There was a response to the article which was quite eyebrow-raising.

Article:
http://archives.citypaper.net/articles/2008/11/13/you-gonna-use-that

Response:
http://archives.citypaper.net/articles/2008/12/04/letters-to-the-editor

Accredited
I was a resident of Norris Square for 18 years [News, "You Gonna Use That?" Andrew Thompson, Nov. 13, 2008]. I am Latino. I was on the board of the [Norris Square Civic Association] and I was also the president of the nonprofit holding company that acquired the bank on Norris and Front. I read your article and I found it startling that Pat DeCarlo took credit for cleaning up the Norris Square Park of drug dealing. As the organizer of the groups that really cleaned up the park in the late '80s and early '90s, it is surprising to see revisionist history while you are still alive. Before I proceed, I need to ask you if she told you that she cleaned up the drug dealing. Or was that statement something you assumed if you failed to dig up stories about that entire struggle. The Daily News, Inquirer, Community Focus and other media outlets covered that story quite extensively during that time. I understand the journalistic pressures with deadline, but it is unfortunate that such critical statements go unchallenged. If she lies about something like that, then her entire case is a lie, which might be the case, generally.

The NSCA mission is to empower the community and improve living conditions. In the years that Pat has been at the helm of the nonprofit, have you ever seen anyone else speak about those issues? Of course not. Pat pays lip service to organizing and empowerment but her practice is just as abhorrent as those she criticizes.

Pedro Rodriguez
Philadelphia


Andrew Thompson responds: DeCarlo did not say that she and she alone cleaned up that park. She did, however, say that a large factor in its transformation was the renovation of the houses that line the square. Her phrase was something to the tune of, " When you have eyes and ears watching the park, it's safer."

I did not in the article state that NSCA was solely responsible for the transformation of the park. I stated that that was the reason NSCA started, but I wrote that it was only with other community members that the park was cleaned up. To go into greater detail about who did what and to what extent I feel would have detracted from the focus of the story, which was how NSCA has managed its property holdings.

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softpretzel's picture

Seems like Fishtown will be surrounded by low income Section 8's. Time to move on.

Pass the taters........

Kenzo's picture

Hardly. But West Kensington is being turned into a company town, the company being a single large non-profit which isn't sustainable from what I can tell looking at their tax forms. Oh yes, still no FY2010 returns for them on Guidestar.

The East side of the EL looks to be where most of the sustainable development is going to go. If I was a rehabber or private developer I would probably avoid the other side of the EL since NSCA runs the zoning plus it can do all sorts of fun things to alter property value, further jeapordizing development. None of the non profits seem to ever want to mess with infill development. Look at Fishtown and Flatiron...almost everything now is infill. EKNA-land is also getting infill.

Not that dissimilar from SPHINC in Point Breeze except that SPHINC doesn't develop much of anything.

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lstriar's picture

NSCA is going to have a harder time doing this when the new zoning code takes effect and more homes and businesses can be built by-right. Plus it will drive up land values there and make it harder for them to assemble sites that are solely low-income.

Kenzo's picture

NSCA is going to register as the RCO and keep its zoning voice. Bank on it.

If they're going to follow in the footsteps of Germantown Settlement, they will rapidly expand, run into a cash crisis, collapse and then their entire property portfolio will be up on the auction block. That is what is going on with Settlement's liquidation as we speak.

Or, if they play it smart, when they run into funding issues they will sell off property they willingly choose to not develop over to private interests. Universal Companies has done that to start seed funding for other projects that they have wanted to do in G-Ho. Universal when it first expanded used to run into huge drama clashes with SOSNA but over the years it has settled down. G-Ho also has lots of PHA scattered-site in it which is a dynamic that is absent over here where we are.

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lighterthief's picture

softpretzel wrote:
Seems like Fishtown will be surrounded by low income Section 8's. Time to move on.

This type of support-based special needs targeted housing is rarely a problem. This is not typical sec-8 but deeply subsidized housing along with support services for very needy families WCRP does good work and this type of housing, while costly, is very much needed in an area with a large marginalized population. My only problem with it is location. The site is wrong even if there were not great historic buildings on it. If you want to worry about affordable housing worry about mobile sec-8 vouchers. Fishtown is pretty much not going to get this though as market rents are high enough. NSCA is over concentration affordable housing in their area though. "affordable" can be a valuable part of the housing mix in a neighborhood but the key word is "mix" NSCA is basically killing the private market. That is ultimately unhealthy.

Empty factories to the east and all our waste
The shape of things that came shows on the broken workers face

Kenzo's picture

Ok I am SERIOUSLY ticked off.

Christopher Sawyer
12:26 PM (5 minutes ago)

to Daniel.Dunphy, Amy, mkarp
Dan:

I had a brief exchange with Matt Karp, chair of FNA Zoning, concerning the WCRP project at Front & Norris (Nitza Tufiino townhomes). He informs me that NSCA decided to hold a meeting but got no detailed specifics on when or where this supposed meeting is to commence.

The ZBA hearing is still scheduled next Wednesday. Considering that today is Friday, if I do not have any clue if there will be a public meeting held within this very short period of time, I will send an express Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested letter to the WCRP Chair, Norris Square Civic Assn & Lynette Brown-Sow of the ZBA informing both parties of the complete utter lack of public communication of this project and demand as an Intervenor that the ZBA hearing be indefinitely delayed until such time that appropriate community involvement actually occurs.

If this were a private market-rate developer as the Applicant, citizens would be screaming bloody murder why there is no community involvement for a block-sized demolition, lot line reconfiguration and construction occurring in a highly visible area like this. I'm not sure why these parties believe that they are exempt from the community-involvement process. I'm sure you would agree.

Regards,

-C

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