Developers seek community approval for projects on 15th, Bouvier streets

The proposed projects were both initially met with refusals from the city’s zoning board of adjustment.

Temple-area developer Michael Alhadad presents blueprints for a new housing development on 15th Street near Norris to community residents at the Edward H. Rosen Center for Jewish Life on Nov. 18. | JEREMY ELVAS / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Two developers are seeking community approval to build separate residential buildings off-campus before they make formal appeals to the zoning board of adjustment in 2020.

Michael Alhadad is seeking approval to demolish a three-story building on 15th Street near Norris, to be replaced by a building of the same size with four units. Abdel Ghalayini plans to build a four-story, three-unit residence that would replace a three-story building on Bouvier Street near Berks. 

Both developers, who own several other properties around Main Campus, presented their plans and fielded questions and complaints from residents at a meeting of the 32nd Democratic Ward Registered Community Organization at Hillel at Temple University on Norris Street near 15th on Monday.

Meetings between developers and RCOs take place after the Department of Licenses and Inspections refuses a zoning or use registration application from the developer. If the developer chooses to appeal the decision, RCOs can call a public meeting with 45 days of the appeal being filed to discuss the proposed development, according to the City of Philadelphia’s zoning code. They then submit a summary of what occurred at the meeting to the zoning board before the appeal. 

At Monday’s meeting, residents expressed skepticism toward the developers’ promises to mitigate trash issues and not exclusively rent to students.

Guadalupe Patilla, who lives on Norris Street near 15th, asked why the existing residence on 15th near Norris needed to be torn down before being rebuilt.

“What exactly is wrong with the house,” Patilla said.

“The idea is to bring this down and bring it back up into an all up-to-code building,” said Alhadad in response, adding that the existing building did not satisfy fire code.

“The city’s zoning lets you say ‘multi-family,’ but nine times out of 10, it doesn’t become a multi-family home, it becomes student housing,” said Kenny Turner, a board member of the North Central Special Services District who lives on 15th Street near Norris, in regards to the Bouvier Street project.

“I have residents living in my houses,” Ghalayini said.

Just four residents attended Monday’s meeting. Judith Robinson, the chairperson for the 32nd RCO, said they have yet to come to a decision on the two developments. 

“I’m gonna do more research before we say yea or nay,” Robinson said.

The zoning board refused the 15th Street project because it did not have the required amount of off-street parking and is designed as having “family-based residential units,” which are not permitted under the area’s zoning requirements, said Zhen Jin, a lawyer representing both developers. 

Likewise, the Bouvier Street project did not meet the zoning board’s size requirements, Jin added.

Alhadad estimated that his two-bedroom units would cost approximately $1200 a month in rent, while the three-bedroom units would cost $1500 a month. If the zoning board approves his project on March 4, 2020, construction could begin as early as September, he said.

The zoning board will hear Ghalayini’s appeal regarding the Bouvier Street project on Feb. 12, 2020. 

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