By Caroline Schomp
Old South Pearl continues to get a face lift. One new, 16-unit apartment development at 1411 S. Pearl St. is already under construction. Two older buildings at 1545-1551 S. Pearl St. will be scraped in late spring or early summer for a new office building. Both new buildings have caused controversy in the Platt Park neighborhood. Both are also allowed under the 2010 zoning code.
Arguably, the more controversial of the two is the apartment development. It was planned and permitted before the recent controversy over small-lot developments of 6,250 square feet or less, with no required parking.
Pearl Street development
A rendering of the building slated for 1545-1551 S. Pearl St. provided by Patrick Finney of Finn Realty. This proposed building will replace Gaia Bistro and one-time Greentree Cyclery, where Finney's real estate office, Finn Realty, is located.
According to developer Brad Broyhill, the building will be “unique—a brand new building with an old, historic feel.”
Of the 16 units, 11 will be approximately 500 square feet, three will be 300 square feet and in the back of the building, there will be a pair of two-story, 750 square foot apartments. Broyhill said the units are designed to appeal to younger tenants, who “will enjoy the Wash Park-Platt Park neighborhood amenities.” Construction should be complete by late fall—“weather and inspections permitting,” Broyhill said.
Among the neighborhood’s biggest concerns are parking and neighborhood character, according to Ashley Arroyo, chair of 3PA’s Committee for Responsible Development (CFRD).
“A lot of people are disappointed and continue to be disappointed about an older, beautiful home being scraped,” she said.
With only seven parking spaces—more than required by the zoning code, but less than other apartment developments—neighbors worry about the impact on street parking. Joseph Coppola, who lives immediately behind the development on South Pennsylvania Street said, “We don’t know how many more cars are going to be brought into a very tight area…where they’re going to go and who will lose out from the parking they have now.”
District 7 City Councilman Jolon Clark, who lives just a block off South Pearl Street, said he bought his house so he would be able to walk to its restaurants and shops. He chairs the city’s Transportation and Mobility Working Group and believes “[h]ow we’re dealing with parking and development in our city is all wrong. It’s not designed to reduce the number of cars on the road.”
Clark believes developers including little or no parking need to agree to rent units only to people who don’t have cars.
Parking is less problematic for the development in the 1500 block of South Pearl Street, since developer Patrick Finney’s building will have 16 on-site spaces and 20 leased spaces in an existing parking garage across the street. Neighbors are worried about how his building will fit into the historic character of the block, however.
Finney has been “very responsive as far as outreach, but he’s the owner and it’s well within his right to build something he feels is aesthetically pleasing,” Arroyo said.
“The sleekly contemporary, 17,000 sq ft building will include private offices, private desks in an open-office format, drop-in spaces and mail drops,” Finney said. Two older buildings that housed Gaia Bistro and the developer’s real estate office—formerly Greentree Cyclery—will be demolished to make way for it.
“South Pearl Street is not designated as a historic district and short of that, you’re really dealing property by property,” Arroyo said. “Not everybody agrees. A lot of people are very excited by the new buildings. A lot of people are very disappointed; every building lost is charm lost.”
District 7 City Councilman Clark, who represents Platt Park, agreed. “It’s hard to legislate when everyone has a different opinion.” He said the only way to absolutely preserve the character of Old South Pearl is to go for historic designation, which would place limits on demolition and redevelopment.
Clark pointed to the Baker Historic District and to the recently designated Krisana Park overlay district, south of Glendale, which he said, “[It’s] not my cup of tea, but they [the mid-century modern homes] all matched. They spoke about those like I speak about brick bungalows.”
Historic designation is a long process that involves getting buy-in from affected property owners and, “Often there isn’t a lot of agreement about what that community should look like. It takes an area where there’s a shared vision … but it has to be citizen led,” Clark said.
Absent historic designation, CFRD board member Ryan Archibald said, “Our group’s focus is to try to figure [development projects] out early and open dialog with the owners before it’s too late. We understand property rights. We just want to preserve the ambiance of Pearl Street.”