St. Bonafice Project Community Meeting (Norris Square) Mon April 9

Monday, April 9, 2012 - 7:00pm to 8:30pm

WHERE: 2140 N. Hancock Street 7:00PM to 8:30PM MONDAY APRIL 9TH.

This is your ONE and ONLY chance to find out what is going to be built on the St. Bonafice block over in Norris Square. Many of you in Fishtown and Kensington have a familial connection or were educated or worshiped at St. Bonnies.

Unfortunately to the detriment of the broad community, Norris Square Civic Association has not posted the plans of what they plan to do on the St. Bonafice block openly for the world to see, including what it will look like after the rubble of the old church has been cleared and they start building.

Those in the planning and development circles in Philadelphia have continually asked for plans and elevations from NSCA, only to be met with silence at the requests.

Instead, it will be one community meeting where you can find out what is happening. That's it. If you can't make it: then you won't get to see what they're going to build and will be in the dark until after it's complete and throws open its doors.

There may be renderings you can look at, I don't know. I already expressed my displeasure to MQS about that and maybe I can do what I did with the WCRP plans and post them to the Internet after MQS's office gets the plans.

Comments

2014 york's picture

This meeting was called by Sanchez and a few other locals who oppose the project. Sanchez is trying to pass some sort of zoning change to stop the project. Norris Square is not presenting. There may be renderings of the project at the meeting but I doubt there will be much in the way of a detailed discussion. I spoke with a NSCA rep today and he said all plans are available online but never gave me any site info.

Kenzo's picture

Yeah I deep-Googled for the plans. Nothing. And you know me: I have expert-Googling credentials.

MQS's office is trying to obtain them (if they get them, they should be at the meeting). If they forward any of them to me, I'll be more than happy to broadcast them.

It's kinda too late now since St. Bonafice is destroyed. But at least people have the right to know what they're going to be forced to live next to for the unforseeable future.

Kenzo's picture

This is what I found when I site-limit-searched NSCA's website for "Bonafice":

A stupid page with pictures of the demolition:
http://nscaonline.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=86&Itemid=142

An RFP page where you can't download anything:
http://nscaonline.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=15&Itemid=79

This is the only thing I can find on Google Images:

So the answer is no, NSCA has NOT published a single thing on their website about what they intend to build, and chances are excellent that non-NSCA folks (i.e. homeowners who didn't buy their houses from NSCA or rent from NSCA) have any clue what's going to go up in Norris Square.

If this happened on the other side of the EL, Fishtown would be agog in horror that this is all moving forward with no published plans.

Kenzo's picture

2014 york wrote:
This meeting was called by Sanchez and a few other locals who oppose the project. Sanchez is trying to pass some sort of zoning change to stop the project. Norris Square is not presenting. There may be renderings of the project at the meeting but I doubt there will be much in the way of a detailed discussion. I spoke with a NSCA rep today and he said all plans are available online but never gave me any site info.

By the way are you going to it? I am.

2014 york's picture

I'm going. It should be interesting.

Kenzo's picture

BUMP - I know the fire this morning is dominating everyone's minds right now.

Councilwoman Sanchez is still scheduled to come out. SHE IS ALSO CHAIR OF THE L&I COMMITTEE IN CITY COUNCIL.

I'm not going to say anything beyond that, but I think it's important that people come out for this.

austen's picture

If she was the one speaking today at the news conference, then she has a lot of explaining to do.

I was planning on staying on the couch, but I'm going to go just to hear the smackdown placed tonight.

Lauraska's picture

She was, indeed, the one talking today, austen. I wasn't surprised at all that she was telling lies as that's what she does quite often. I sort of doubt she'll give too much of a crap about this entire situation, unless is affected those she considers to be her constituency, which is based very little on geographic location.

Kenzo's picture

DAM**T!! I can't go I have 6ABC asking me to rebut L&I's statement they are coming to my office right now. I just agreed to do it and they will be here in 5 minutes. Lauraska are you going? I still need people to go to that meeting.

austen's picture

I am going to go

Kenzo's picture

OK nevermind... just did the interview I'll be on 6ABC on the 6:00 cast

Kenzo's picture

Correction... 11. NBC10 asked if they think they should come out to this Norris Square meeting. (I told them it wasn't about the fire, but they still want to send a truck over anyway)

lighterthief's picture

MQS jut lies and lies its her greatest skill

Pure_Fishtown's picture

Kenzo, please post after the meeting; I'm not up to going tonight but want to know all the details.

Kenzo's picture

OK I'm OMW.

Lauraska's picture

Can't go. Sorry. :(

Kenzo's picture

LOVE IT IS CRAY CRAY. MQS is gonna try to do a mass remapping to throw a bus under NSCA the Civic is going ballistic. Screaming for an hour nonstop.

Kenzo's picture

The screaming is in English AND in Spanish.

lighterthief's picture

curious are people angry about the church or about what is proposed or just angry to be angry?

austen's picture

Dude. My ears are still ringing.

Kenzo's picture

Norris Square is all R10. MQS is going to remap everyone R10A. This throws the Bonafice apartment project in the toilet if she does this. It means NSCA's dream of stuffing a bunch of renters in a PHA type complex are in the toilet and the can only put townhouses where the church was.

Some NSCA people were screaming "we made you!!!". WCRP people were there and not saying much when I pointed out they tried to sneak thru zoning at Front and Norris without holding a community meeting about it. Some homeowners who are non NSCA are upset over parking an that it will put a bunch of kids on a block where they won't have much to do but cause trouble.

Kenzo's picture

There was this odd flyer distributed by the church we held the meeting in... and the 2nd was obviously a smear campaign on MQS by Norris Square...

lighterthief's picture

the cross links don't work very well but I like the last one best

gentrification comes to Norris Square / ... the project includes parking

it's almost haiku but actually utter nonsense

lighterthief's picture

also they miss the fact that multi zoning could actually attract gentrification by allowing as of right student housing Templeificatiion style development

Scrambler's picture

Thank you to Kenzo and anyone else that went to this meeting, and took the time to think about what is proposed, and ask good questions.

Scrambler's picture

Don't know what to make of the first poster -flyer. It asks questions. But they seem to be sort of dumb questions. I guess you have to go to the meeting -discusion to find out were they are coming from, and what their agenda is. But it sort of smells bad.
Second poster- flyer: could be wrong again, but seems there is a sense of desperation there. When all else fails, and your arguements are not not valid, instill fear, and use bully tactics.
,

2014 york's picture

Sweet meeting. Lot's of yelling and nobody learned anything.

lighterthief's picture

2014 york wrote:
Sweet meeting. Lot's of yelling and nobody learned anything.

isn't that the point? now the powers can say they "held" a meeting and go on with their devious plans

Kenzo's picture

By the way, as a frame of reference, almost all of the residential in 19125 is R10A property.

As you can see, life isn't so bad here, where we have this zoning category. Much of North Philadelphia west of Front Street happens to be R10.

MQS displayed an attitude that I actually agree with. Norris Square is doing very little infill development anymore. And Norris Square is still plagued with lots that could do with new low income houses... INDIVIDUAL HOUSES on them. But Norris Square's vision is to just get bigger and bigger, and they do this by using their grants to wipe out city blocks and building en masse.

You know there's plenty of lots over by Cousin's that have lots of room for that kind of mass development. But why demolish EXISTING structures for very high density residential, but leave vacant lots sitting around like swiss cheese? Crime improves and goes down when you have more blocks completely filled-in with positive uses.

And when you stick in high density residential, some day developers will take over those infill lots and start building and creates a parking crisis. There already is a parking nightmare around Norris Square Park according to MQS, and she lives right by the square and said she is getting parking complaints already; but around her house are vacant lots which will be harder to repurpose if the neighborhood turns around later and fights to stop any in-fill because nobody has room to park.

First-world problems.

lstriar's picture

As a person with a planning background (not a planner by profession), I have to chime in here. Rezoning an ENTIRE DISTRICT to eliminate multi-family is a highly inappropriate decision. The problem here is NSCA, not the desire to build multi-family. NOBODY would be up in arms if the proposals were for market rate housing, because those would be highly appropriate. The reason there are no market rate rental proposals is because NSCA controls the neighborhood, and will only allow their own rental to be built.

R10 is more appropriate zoning for under the El and nearby the El station than R10A. Every district needs to allow for rental properties. The NSCA is operating in only their own interests, but this is NOT the way to solve for it.

This solution better be a temporary one until NSCA is removed from the decision making process. But remapping tends to be a very permanent solution. We can now look forward to more low-density single family homes where we should have transit oriented development along our most highly used transit line.

HAZMAT's picture

Did you just say transient ! those words are as offensive to me as is gentrification is to nsca ,~ That being said would have been nice to hear these issues at the meeting people talk the talk how many take the walk?

lstriar's picture

Transient?

HAZMAT's picture

this R10a will stop nothong on nscas agenda but it will make them hold property community mseetings on future plans , is that so horrible ¿

Lauraska's picture

Hazmat, the poster said TRANSIT. TRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANSIT.

2014 york's picture

NSCA owns 1/2 of the building surrounding Norris Square Park. All of them were once grand single family homes and all have been converted into multi family rentals. All of them are in need of repair. This zoning change may be the only way for MQS to stop NSCA from further destroying the neighborhood. They have become the new blight.

lstriar's picture

You are right on that. The problem is that grand single family houses can be expensive to maintain for a single family owner in a market like Norris Square that is neighboring some higher income areas but is not there itself. But focusing solely on low-income multi-family conversions is a terrible solution. No great solution. I'd like to see some retail along that park as well. Really bring it back to life.

HAZMAT's picture

I agree100%

HAZMAT's picture

the issues are not to do with the zoning but a direct word to nsca to get a grip on there Agenda and start doing things in community interest and not just looking at there agenda as the communities agenda

2014 york's picture

It's clear to me that NSCA is geared toward preventing gentrification. There is great fear that white people will start taking over. Their solution has been to concentrate poverty. Buying any available property around the park, converting it to multi-family keeps anyone of means from establishing a foothold. Call them what they are...a racist organization. They spread fear and lies to the residents. Anyone attending last nights meeting could easily hear the brainwashing of the community perpetrated by NSCA.

The proposed housing for St Bonifice can be built on other available land and the matching funds can still be used to rehabilitate the St Bonifice campus. They seem unwilling to compromise therefore the councilwoman is forced to change the zoning. Believe what you like about MQS. I've spoken to her many times and she IS looking out for the interests of all of her constituents, not just the Hispanics.

Lauraska's picture

Wow, the NSCA hates white people and MQS is opposing them? I say this without any sarcasm - I'm surprised. Every time I have heard her speak, she has continued to spew the sound bites that I hear from many other neighborhood folks who call themselves "activists" but really do nothing more than stand up at community meetings and insult anyone that isn't from their "community." I'm willing to give MQS the benefit of the doubt, but I'm still leery of her especially with this whole Hosiery Factory fire situation.

HAZMAT's picture

right with you on that note , she could doing the right thing for here own longevity

lighterthief's picture

the blanket remapping is obstructionist and short sighted a desperate attempt to block NSCA. The answer is zoning in conjunction with proper planning that can make sure that existing fabric is protected and opportunities exist for a variety of housing types located where they are appropriate. Unfortunately this requires compromise and NSCA is not willing to do this. MQS is a politician so compromise is her job I would assume her as much as I distrust her to be the more likely to look for solutions that address all constituents interests. The affordable housing that NSCA would ultimately be more successful if part of a vibrant diverse community with an active private market and business community. Their fierce dedication to only affordable housing that they control will make sure their neighborhood does not thrive but that they remain awash in subsidy and in unchallenged in control.

HAZMAT's picture

this bill in no way stops the nsca , boniface project it does however make them seek community support before they just throw up any thing they wish , Is that really such a bad thing ?

Kenzo's picture

Lauraska wrote:
Wow, the NSCA hates white people and MQS is opposing them? I say this without any sarcasm - I'm surprised. Every time I have heard her speak, she has continued to spew the sound bites that I hear from many other neighborhood folks who call themselves "activists" but really do nothing more than stand up at community meetings and insult anyone that isn't from their "community." I'm willing to give MQS the benefit of the doubt, but I'm still leery of her especially with this whole Hosiery Factory fire situation.

I just got out of a VERY VERY VEEEEEERRRRY long meeting directly with MQS in her office. A Kenzo who has a stake in the area was with me. There was about 30+ topics being discussed... and honestly I've never been in a Councilperson's office for that length of time.

And yes, L&I and the fire were both brought up, and the zoning, and what the future plans are for East Kensington, South Kensington, West Kensington, Harowgate, Juniata, etc. MQS has to represent a LOT more people than just Norris Square and just because folks are Hispanic within her Council district does not mean the interests (or the problems) are the same.

A lot of folks within the walls of City Hall are very aware of what happened to Germantown Settlement. And there are non-profits which fall into this "growth for the sake of growth" trap, and NSCA is showing strong signs that it's fallen into that hole. When budgets have done nothing but shrink for the last 5 years, nobody can afford a non-profit that grows asymptotically, doesn't budget (or file timely tax returns), much less makes sure that its projects are sustainable over long periods of time.

Norris Square is telling the community that the apartments on the Bonafice block will be co-op. If a fully-subsidized unit has to have a continuous funding stream just to keep up maintenance because the tenants can't pay to keep up the maintenance, how will a tower of co-op units that are all super-subsidized do the same thing? You know why there's hardly no co-op buildings in Philadelphia? Because co-op buildings are a joke. They suck and they don't work. People in New York hate them, and we're talking co-op buildings full of high class doctors and lawyers. How is a co-op building full of low-income going to look 25 years down the road when the boiler needs to be replaced? I'm sure Pat has plans for that, on a paper napkin somewhere.

And comparing NSCA's non-subsidized rents to private rents for units in similar split-houses, I would imagine the difference is minuscule. NSCA really needs to split off its zoning function and make it independent and if it doesn't it's going to not be pretty down the road. And if it keeps sucking up property like a vacuum cleaner, it's going to hit a speed bump with its funding and then NSCA will be forced to sell off properties just to keep the lights on.

It must be great to be running a non-profit flush with so much cash and have the blinders on.

Kenzo's picture

Summing the PlanPhilly article, MQS is rezoning and throwing NSCA under a bus because they're going nuts with overbuilding, and they use their renters and their employees as "the voice" for their zoning. Not to mention because they are mostly R10 they can do a lot of stuff by right and avoid zoning, having R10A means NSCA has to actually hold meetings where NON-NSCA people who live in the zoning area will have input.

And Pat doesn't want that.

HAZMAT's picture

very well put, I have to say that for a change that I stand behind MQS on this decision

Kenzo's picture

HAZMAT: Isn't it amazing that now the Bonafice block is going to get re-zoned... that SUDDENLY the plans for what the apartments will look like come out?

NSCA should be forced to do everything through zoning so at least that way it can't take another LOVE wrecking ball to another piece of history and just start building it, then saying "our community supports it" when your community is mostly your tenants, and all the homeowners who don't owe any allegiance to NSCA don't even get a flyer in their door telling them that it's coming.

2014 york's picture

meh, looks like a medical center. Very uninspiring and I'm sure it looks better in the drawing. I guess 5 million doesn't buy much these days.

HAZMAT's picture

agreed if rezoning is the only tool available I to MQS for dealing with this issue I applaud her use of her position as a resident of noriss square.

HAZMAT's picture

I would be upset if some one sold me that for 50 bucks

HAZMAT's picture

Kenzo is that rendering a copy and past tick from another nsca project, it does look very familiar

Kenzo's picture

Wouldn't surprise me if the architect spruced up another idea-project and reshaped it to fit into the lot. A technique common to Pulte, Toll Bros...

http://planphilly.com/sites/planphilly.com/files/G__1031_St._Boniface_Complex__-G-03_AREA_PLANS.pdf

I had the impression that there was going to be a LOT of units in this project. $10 million dollars for just a handful of housing units?

You know, PHA got into the same boat with spending $400K per housing unit down in Graduate Hospital and they were skewered over that. When market rate houses are costing way less than that, you're blowing all that money away on what... wall-to-wall TVs?

2014 york's picture

I'm pretty sure it's 5 million for the housing and another 5 (matching funds) for the Bonifice campus. Correct me if I'm wrong. We should be careful about misinformation, ya know.

lighterthief's picture

Really weak design and rendering work there. Would never let something like that leave my desk for public viewing.

I really support the idea of limited equity co-ops NYC has lots of great examples built in decades past wish it was a more widely used model. No need for it to look like that or be there though.

Subsidized housing does cost too much per sf but some of that cost goes to more stringent design and construction costs tied to the financing, some goes to the fact that it is generally union labor but some of it is waste.

2014 york's picture

I estimate that these 15 units will cost approximately $350k each. That's with the land tossed in for free, I assume. Not to mention the million spent on studies and design plus payroll at NSCA. Let's just round it to $400k per unit. Keep in mind that this is construction cost only. If these were market rate, the cost to purchase would be considerably more. I've got a huge problem with this amount of money being spent on low income families when so many hard working taxpayers barely scrape by in affording the mortgages on homes that cost much less and are typically not new. Are we really helping people? Isn't there a better solution?

HAZMAT's picture

this has been my issue all along york , as well as the church

lighterthief's picture

2014 york wrote:
Not to mention the million spent on studies and design plus payroll at NSCA.

very possible the Architect has worked pro-bono so far and won't have a contract or bill until construction documents, still not much work was done from the look of it. Couple days of work. Max.

2014 york wrote:
just round it to $400k per unit.

that's a bit high but not too far off

2014 york wrote:
I've got a huge problem with this amount of money being spent on low income families when so many hard working taxpayers barely scrape by in affording the mortgages on homes that cost much less and are typically not new.

Agreed, and often I think it would be better to make it easier for lower income folks to purchase existing homes but unfortunately the very inexpensive houses of which there are so many here often go to investors with cash. Not easy for lower income family to get a mortgage on a cheap house that needs work in a middling neighborhood. Much easier for an investor to pay cash and rent sec-8 no risk profit

2014 york wrote:
Are we really helping people? Isn't there a better solution?

Sometimes. In some places the market just does not work and new, subsidized, housing has social benefits that are more than the sum of the parts. Job creation, place making, improving the overall urban environment, and allowing a family or senior access to decent housing that would not have been available sometimes have social benefits that go beyond the simple construction costs. Not always. I would say for a local example Coral St Arts House is an example of a costly project that ultimately is a win for the surrounding neighborhood by removing blight and bringing in a stable positive place. Cost ultimately better than another fire and another empty lot and done at a time private market would not have touched it. Special needs housing like Project Home and the Covenant House project on Kensington serve people the private market does not and in theory helping these individuals move forward in life is good for society.

Not all benefits of development can be calculated in a spreadsheet.

Some projects are wasteful disasters though, I'ts a mixed bag.

2014 york's picture

Good points, John. I'm still searching for any real community benefit in this particular housing project.

I'm not saying that there is no need to build low income housing ever. I'd much rather see rehab to existing structures and help for families to purchase market rate housing, which costs less to build. It would be far cheaper for NSCA to purchase new homes on the open market than build them. They have purchased property but typically converted as rentals which I believe is also the wrong approach.

Most of the Norris Square neighborhood that is North of Susquehanna is in really bad shape. With exception (not really) of the two or so blocks of homes NSCA built in the last couple of years. The money being spent on this project could make a major difference in that part of the community. Instead the older homes will continue to decline to the point of demolition causing the need for more overpriced housing built by NSCA or some other ineffective agency.

Kenzo's picture

Theoretically on paper the MQS Land Bank bill makes rehabable properties that have tax arrears delicious for such low income housing.

But like everything with city legislation initiatives: I'll believe it when I see it.

HAZMAT's picture

those houses will be the white elephant of noriss sqr with all the historic buildings surrounding them andcastle look of the school building this just makes no sence..