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'Twinkle' Proposed for Markle St. Lot

Developer requests twin homes for lot zoned for single-family.

The Wissahickon Neighbors Civic Association must decide what's better: a vacant lot or a set of twin homes on a Markle Street property zoned for one, single-family home.

Jerry Olsen bought 490 Markle St. for about $110,000 and proposes to build two attached homes, or "twinkles" as his attorney David Orphanides referred to them, selling for $290,000 each. The homes, after a subdivision, would be four-bedroom, 3.5-bath, three-story, joined structures.

The proposed home, currently a vacant lot in the middle of Markle Street between Ridge Avenue and Mitchell Street, would legally provide one off-street parking space for each home. Orphanides asserted that each driveway could accommodate shotgun or stacked parking—meaning four off-street spaces—an observation the neighborhood group accepted.

"What we're proposing here is to a replace a gap... in the architectural fabric of the block," Orphanides said.

Olsen, who is developing higher-end homes on Silverwood Street in Manayunk, promised his construction trucks won't be gone by 4:30 or 5 p.m. every day (to avoid impacting parking) and he would refrain from closing the street.

"We will be ultra-careful with everyone's homes right now," he said.

A development plan that provides for parking and replaces an unused property is often cheered by neighbors. And no direct opposition took places at the civic meeting Monday. However, residents—in questions to the developer and discussions among themselves—wondered why the property needed two homes.

With four bedrooms, some resident feared that landlords may acquire the properties and rent to college students—depleting the parking provided.

The project requires zoning variances for lot width and total area. Orphanides said 2,600-square-foot lot just misses the zoning code for a by-right subdivision. Additionally, he said they felt the lot too big for only one single-family home.

Although sympathetic, neighbors felt that decision was financially based. Basically, the property owners wouldn't turn enough profit by selling one home.

As Olsen's zoning hearing date isn't until Feb. 19, the civic association pushed a vote until its Feb. 4 meeting. Residents specifically inquired if the house could be narrowed to 14 feet, from 16 feet, to curb party houses.

Debbie Thomas January 09, 2013 at 01:56 PM
I like the design of these homes and building them will be much better than letting the lot sit vacant.
Sandy Sorlien January 09, 2013 at 02:21 PM
This is a no-brainer - approve it. If twins resemble singles, as most traditional Philadelphia twins do, and they don't have bland garage frontages, then they don't negatively affect the character of the neighborhood. It is a good thing that houses can be more compact and people can live a bit smaller. Some of the best blocks in Roxborough have a combination of singles, twins, and rowhouses. It's the character of the frontage that matters - what we walk by.
Louise Fischer January 09, 2013 at 03:51 PM
If these homes are selling for 290K, I don't see them as investment type properties. The design "looks good" in the sketch, but would need to know more about materials. Narrowing the houses from 16' to 14', in my opinion, would be less attractive to buyers looking for a family home. A 16' wide home in the city of Philadelphia represents a very gracious home. The front porches are lovely.
brian moses January 09, 2013 at 04:24 PM
There's no reason to keep filling and subdivding lots - green space has value! This should be a beautiful 3-bedroom house with a side yard that adds value to the entire street. Instead we get continuous pavement and building with a street tree. I purchased ,y property in a section of Roxborough with plots that are 10' too narrow to subdivide SPECIFICALLY FOR THAT REASON. We don't all want houses without side yard.

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