Residents, RCO leader disagree on Broad Street development

Several residents disagree with 32nd Democratic Ward RCO’s decision to not resist the project.

Baker Funeral Home on Broad Street near Norris could be turned into a six-story apartment building if it is approved by the city’s zoning board. | COLLEEN CLAGGETT / THE TEMPLE NEWS

The 32nd Democratic Ward Registered Community Organization will not oppose the development of a six-story, mixed-use building at the former site of the Baker Funeral Home on Broad Street near Norris Street, said Judith Robinson, the RCO’s chairperson.

Robinson will not object to the proposed 40-unit building, whose fate will be decided by the city’s zoning board on Wednesday, because Michael Alhadad, its developer, promised to address anticipated issues with trash and parking at an RCO meeting last month, she said.

But several residents who live near the proposed development and attended the RCO meeting told The Temple News that they did not communicate their decision to Robinson and thought that the RCO would oppose the project.

“We didn’t hear anything about this,” said Cassandra Knight, 56, who lives near the intersection of Carlisle and Norris streets and opposes the project.

“I’m opposed to it,” said Guadalupe Patilla, 74, who also live who lives near the intersection of Carlisle and Norris streets and attended the meeting. “I don’t want to see any more construction around here.”

In addition to the 40 multi-family units, the building, which would stretch from Broad to Carlisle streets, would also house a business on its first floor, though the tenant has yet to be chosen, Alhadad said at the Sept. 16 meeting. 

Alhadad could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspection initially issued two refusals for the project which the developer will appeal on Wednesday, said Adam Laver, a zoning lawyer who represents Alhadad’s project, at the September meeting.

The city’s first refusal centers around the Temple area’s SP-INS zoning designation, which restricts developers from building single-use apartments, Laver said, while the second enforces a limit on the amount of land a building is allowed to occupy within its property. 

Though an RCO has no legal power to stop a project from happening, their concerns are taken into account by the zoning board at hearings, he added.

Though she is aware that some residents oppose the project, Robinson said, she has to weigh their concerns with what she can negotiate with the developer. The alternative would be 40 units of housing coming to the community while the residents have none of their demands met, she added.

“That’s why I’m not saying ‘support’ at all,” Robinson said. “Just say ‘unopposed,’ and then try to get the developer to take care of whatever the problems are.”

“Just to say ‘no’ out of the clear blue sky makes no sense,” Robinson added.

On top of the 11 reserved parking spaces planned for the building, Alhadad promised to pay for overflow parking for his residents elsewhere so that they did not take up parking spots on Broad and Carlisle streets, Robinson said.

But Patilla thinks that Alhadad’s tenants will still park outside of the building, Patilla said.

“If I live in that apartment building, and if the lot is two blocks away, you think I’m going to walk from that lot all the way to Broad and Norris in the middle of the night?” Patilla said.

Janet King, 67, who lives near the intersection of 15th and Diamond streets, said she didn’t know that Robinson wouldn’t oppose the project but has accepted the fact that the developer is going to build it anyway.

King is not opposed to more residential housing but is concerned about how it will affect parking in the area because the developer said the building is not geared toward students.

“Under the guise that it’s not going to be student housing, gee, how are those people going to park?” King said.

If people urging her to oppose the project, Robinson will do it, she said.

“I’m trying to be as discerning as possible, hearing people, hearing every side, and then coming up with a solution,” she said.

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