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Church Renovation Highlights Area Development Projects

Developer proposes turning abandoned Manayunk Avenue church into housing.

Seeking to rehab an abandoned Manayunk Avenue church and turn it into single-family homes and apartments, a developer combatted concerns of depleted street parking by offering—at minimum—14 off-street spaces.

Highlighting several development projects at both the Manayunk Neighborhood Council and Central Roxborough Civic Association meetings, Phil Thomas proposed an overhaul to the dilapidated church at Manayunk and Monastery Avenues.

Thomas, who hasn't purchased the property yet, intends on converting the rectory into a single-family home, create four houses and subdivide the church into eight units. Underground garage parking would be provided, and the church's historical bell tower would be preserved and spotlighted—the project is named after it.

"The point is to sell this off to end users, so it won't become a party house," Thomas said to the Central Roxborough Civic Association Feb. 3.

Residents were concerned about added parking congestion in the already densely populated neighborhood. The 14 spaces plus limits on the apartments to one-bedroom units quelled some fears.

"It's a nice enrichment... and I rather see it converted than turned into modern places," resident George Johnson said. Parking and architectural preservation were key issues for him.

Thomas said site work would mostly be limited to interior construction and vehicles shouldn't clog up the street. Other neighbors held similar complaints about a project to create three homes at 213 Roxborough Ave.

Resident Molly Clark Davis dealt with developer Jerry Logue in a previous project and said his vehicles parked on sidewalks and blocked traffic. She characterized her interactions with him as "insincere" and felt the project could be problematic.

"Aside from not wanting this because of parking, I think he was disrespectful and didn't" honor his word, Clark Davis said.

Logue anticipates no need for zoning relief and was appearing to the civic as a courtesy.

"We'll try to be more careful. It's difficult parking to begin with, but we'll certainly improve the behavior if neighbors think it's a problem," he said. "I'd express that I will have better oversight and see that it doesn't happen again."

The project itself will add three homes with two garages to secure off-street parking. Additionally, a curb cut will be replaced—adding another legal spot to the street.

In Manayunk, a developer at 4504 Baker St. met with more resistance. The property, a three-unit apartment building, is zoned as a single-family home. When David Brannigan bought the reduced-priced property, the zoning issue was known. Manayunk Neighborhood Council members were hesitant to help legalize more tenants on the narrow street.

"This building will undoubtedly be improved, but we still have to discuss problems with density," member Hilary Langer said, adding he'd like to see it as two units, not three.

Vice President John Hunter said, "To allow a nonconforming use, we'd like to see an improvement," and that apartments with one bedroom would attract "more professional people" than the units with multiple bedrooms—as is currently proposed.

Speaking for Brannigan, attorney Bill O'Brien said the property has been occupied as three units for years and wouldn't alter the parking situation much. Additionally, because of excavation along Green Lane, restoring the property to a single-family unit, as some suggested, didn't make sense.

"There's nothing really reminiscent of the grandeur of a three-floor, single-family home," he said.

For resident Darlene Messina, any project to increase the parking problem is difficult to swallow.

"Do we allow more conversions of single-family units? My answer is no." 

O'Brien asked for a continuance from the Zoning Board and will revise the project before re-approaching the civic association.

Editor's note: An earlier version misspelled Monastery Avenue, and it has been corrected.

Moe February 07, 2011 at 04:51 PM
That is Manayunk and Monastery Avenues
Sam Fran Scavuzzo (Editor) February 07, 2011 at 05:36 PM
Thanks for the heads up, Moe. I corrected the piece.
Moe February 07, 2011 at 05:52 PM
No problem! It would be nice to see the old place put to new use.

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