Advocacy

CHHS advocates for preservation of Chestnut Hill's unique character. On this page, we'll keep track of issues related to preservation on the local, regional, statewide, and national levels.

JULY 2, 2014

Endangered Property in
Chestnut Hill National Historic District

Because of an imminent threat to an important historic building, the Chestnut Hill Historical Society issued an urgent “call to action” for all its members regarding the announced plan by Blake Development Corporation to demolish the house at 415 Moreland Avenue and build two new houses on the subdivided lot. After a week of intense discussion with everyone involved, the Historical Society remains strongly opposed to this demolition and subdivision, and are offering financially feasible solutions to the Developer. Here is an update on this situation:

  • Stair at 415 W. Moreland Ave.Last week both the Community Association and the Business Association voted to affirm their support for the preservation of important historic buildings within Chestnut Hill’s National Historic District, which is gratifying.

  • The Developer planning to re-develop 415 West Moreland, Blake Development Corporation, invited a group from the Historical Society (the CHHS Executive Director, Vice President of Preservation and a Board member who is an architect with historic preservation background) to visit the property. It was observed that, as with many historic properties that have not been properly maintained, some deterioration has occurred and repairs are needed. As in many neglected properties, water infiltration has occurred, but, crucially no indication of structural failure or insurmountable problems were found. Further, the interior needs sizeable cosmetic work, but was substantially intact (including the main staircase seen here). It retains the key features of its original, Colonial Revival style interior as it was designed by the eminent architect, Charles Barton Keen, such as foyer stairs.

  • During the visit, the Developer acknowledged that the building was sound, but that the repairs and upgrades he’d need to make for resale purposes would not yield his expected profit margin.

The Historical Society is deeply troubled by and strongly opposed to the potential loss of this important Colonial Revival house by Charles Barton Keen to make way for subdivision and new development. Several years ago, a survey was conducted to determine how many of the approximately 2,800 residential properties in Chestnut Hill are vulnerable to this kind of demolition and subdivision by right under Philadelphia’s zoning code. The answer is breath-taking: roughly 1,400 properties could be affected. If even a small portion of these properties were re-developed, the unique character of Chestnut Hill could be lost forever.


APRIL 18, 2014

Wyndmoor Station: A Note to our Members

The Wyndmoor Train Station is in a current state of a dismantled roof and we wanted to give you a brief update on the project, which may be of interest to you as a supporter of the National Historic District.

The Wyndmoor Train Station is listed as "Significant" within the Chestnut Hill National Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places. This is a great honor, but one without regulatory control.

The SEPTA project is to remove and replace the entire roof and roof structure due to a fire which resulted in structural damage to the underlying rafters of the pitched roof and several holes in the flat roof. As SEPTA classifies this work as a repair project, the normal channels of notification for publicly funded projects were not followed and the Chestnut Hill Historical Society was not contacted as Consulting Party under historic preservation review laws.

We have been in communication with the Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission (PHMC), the state review agency; the City's Director of Engineering and Special Projects; and the SEPTA Architectural Manager for the project.

We appreciate SEPTA's architectural manager's quick response to our request and providing us with more details of the project. SEPTA is using the original drawings as a guide for the replacement of the roof, which should mimic as closely as possible the original. Significant architectural features such as the pitched roof and dormer will remain the same. Where possible existing flashing and scupper elements will remain, or if replaced, replicated in kind.

The slate, however, will be replaced with asphalt shingles which is a disappointment and in the long run is not cost effective for the City. An asphalt roof, while cheaper today, will generally need to be replaced two to three times over the lifespan of a well-maintained slate roof, each time costing twice as much as the time before, resulting in more than twice the overall cost for the City and taxpayers.

The Chestnut Hill Historical Society is requesting to SEPTA that we become a Consulting Party to the project from this point forward for review of plans and materials, especially the selection of style and color of the asphalt shingles. And will send additional updates as we have them.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us at info@chhist.org or 215-247-0417.


DECEMBER 6, 2011

8200 Germantown Avenue Project Update

Since June of this year, HDAC has been participating as part of the Working Group who has been negotiating on behalf of the community and the respective Design Review Committees (LUPZ, DRC, Traffic and Transportation, and HDAC) with Bowman Properties. From the beginning, the Working Group identified the key issues relating to the proposed development as the height and massing of the building on Germantown Avenue, the height and massing of the building on Shawnee Street, and landscape and buffers. As a result of the Negotiating Group's efforts, noted improvements include changing the proposed zoning change for Germantown Avenue property from C-3 to C-2 (more appropriate to existing zoning and more compatible uses by right), reduction of the height and massing of the buildings on both Germantown Avenue and Shawnee Street, more cohesive architectural expression of the buildings, and development of a landscape plan with heavily planted buffers. In addition, operational concerns have been listed and will be addressed in a Community Development Agreement.

Bowman Properties decided to pursue approval for their development by means of legislative action where they have submitted 3 Bills to City Council for review and approval. Bill 110762 changes the existing Zoning of the portion of the property fronting Germantown Avenue from C-7 to C-2, changes the portion of the property fronting Shawnee Street from R-5 to R-10B, and shifts the location of the zoning change farther toward Shawnee Street (increasing the size of the Commercial Zoning). Bill 110763 modifies the Germantown Avenue Overlay requirements. Bill 110764 will reverse the direction of Hartwell Lane to run toward Germantown Avenue upon completion of construction. The Bills have been reported out of Committee and are expected to have their 2nd reading and Council vote on December 15.

The project design and details will continue to change as the developer moves forward. The Working Group has been negotiating 3 key documents that will guide and restrict the future development of the project. The documents are the Zoning Bills, a Community Development Agreement and deed restrictions. The CDA and the deed restrictions are legally binding upon the property Owner and will run with the land. This protects the community in the event that the property is sold in the future.

The HDAC remains generally supportive of the project if the developer agrees to final language of the Zoning Bills, a Community Development Agreement and deed restrictions that is acceptable to the Working Group. There are several important community meetings coming up in Chestnut Hill. On Wednesday, December 7, LUPZ will have a meeting at 6:00 pm and DRC will meet at 7:30 pm. Both meetings will take place at Chestnut Hill Hospital. On Monday, December 12 at 8:00 pm, the Community Association Board will meet and vote on the project. The Historical Society strongly encourages you to attend the community meetings to learn more about the project and express your opinions.


OCTOBER 24, 2011

Dear Members,

For the past 20 months, the residents of Chestnut Hill have anxiously awaited the outcome of a negotiating process in which community and neighbor organizations have sought to influence Chestnut Hill College's Master Plan for the development of the 32-acre Sugarloaf property.

On Thursday, October 27 at 6:00 pm, the community's Sugarloaf Negotating Group will present its recommended settlement to the CHCA Board for their approval at the Sugarloaf mansion located at Bells Mill and Germantown Avenues. If approved, this may lead to an enforceable Community Development Agreement between the CHCA and the college. Since this immensely complex issue directly and significantly affects the Historic District, the Historical Society has been actively involved in these negotiations, along with the Business Association, Community Association, Friends of the Wissahickon, heirs to the Houston estate and two neighbor organizations. Now that a settlement is near at hand, we encourage Society members to attend the October 27 meeting, both to understand the terms of the proposed settlement and to participate in the public discussion.

What follows is a brief summary of the Society's position on this issue:

BACKGROUND
On August 2, 2006, the Albert M. Greenfield Foundation sold its Sugarloaf estate to Chestnut Hill College, saying it had selected CHC in preference to eight other commercial developers because it would balance the best interests of the community, the environment, and would advance the Foundation's mission in support of institutional learning.

In October 2009, the college released its Master Plan for the development of a new campus and announced they would seek Institutional Development District (IDD) zoning from the City.

In response, the Chestnut Hill community, under the auspices of the Community Association, formed a committee (Sugarloaf Negotiating Group) in January 2010 with representatives from the principal community groups and neighborhood organizations to review the college plan and to negotiate changes to any perceived adverse impact of the development. The results of this negotiation are being presented to the CHCA Board on October 27.

WHAT HAS BEEN ACHIEVED
The revised Master Plan and the supporting Community Development Agreement (CDA) being presented to the CHCA Board for approval on October 27, has many significant benefits for the Chestnut Hill community. For example:

  • The "modified" IDD zoning ordinance passed by Philadelphia City Council for Sugarloaf has reduced limits on the height/size/scale of the buildings to be erected. For instance, the gross square footage of new building area is limited to no more than 500,000 sq. ft., whereas the City's standard 'non-modified' IDD Ordinance permits several million sq. ft. floor space;
  • The footprint of the buildings and parking structures have been moved further away from Germantown Avenue (with approximately 350' set backs);
  • The number of parking spaces on the Sugarloaf campus is substantially reduced (from 600 to 450 cars);
  • Two historic buildings slated for demolition in the original plan, will now be incorporated into the design of the new campus;
  • The college is offering to permanently protect up to 19 acres of open land (only if all 9 voting members sign the CDA) through conservation easements;
  • The college will give the community an opportunity to review the design of the new buildings as they are planned (community review is eliminated under the City's IDD zoning category);
  • Numerous additional points related to the design and operation of the campus have been negotiated and agreement reached, including things such as light spillage and protection of birds to landscaping and view corridors, and are documented in the CDA.

If all of the community groups which comprise the Negotiating Group agree to sign the final agreement, the college has committed to sign it as well.

CHHS POSITION

The college was chosen by the previous owner to develop Sugarloaf (over eight other, higher-bidding commercial developers) because the Greenfield Foundation believed the college could be relied on to develop this key property in a responsible fashion. The college expressly stated at the time that they would use the property to expand their enrollment. As the President of the Foundation said at the time, they were "... delighted to see the property going to the college, as it fits in with their goal of institutional learning and preservation of the environment. "

The Society is alarmed by the continued resistance of the two neighbor organizations to the college's plans because:

i. these actions may jeopardize the college's Master Plan and may lead to a disastrous commercial development of Sugarloaf, exactly as the Morgan Tract was developed into Chestnut Hill Village Apartments and Market Square;
ii. these actions potentially prevent the community from exercising some measure of influence over the on-going design of the buildings, and;
iii. these actions, if continued, will prevent the community from receiving the generous donation of 19 acres of permanent conservation easements.

Over the last two years the college has, in our view, demonstrated a sincere desire to respond to the community's concerns, and has taken important steps to earn the community's good will, including agreeing to limitations on the size of their buildings; offering 19 acres of permanent conservation easements; making a sizable investment in re-designing the entire Master Plan to meet community concerns; by agreeing to protect two historic structures which were slated for demolition; and by patiently negotiating with the community over two years. None of these concessions were mandated by the City's zoning code.

In conclusion, the Chestnut Hill Historical Society supports CHC's development of the Sugarloaf under the terms negotiated between the college and the Negotiating Group. We believe - given the realistic alternatives - it represents the best deal possible for the college, the Chestnut Hill community and the Historic District. This negotiated settlement strikes a reasonable balance between the needs of the college and the desires of the community.

IN SUMMARY
The Historical Society is grateful for the community spirit of the college which made this settlement possible and we strongly endorse the draft documents being presented on October 27 to the CHCA Board for their approval. We encourage you to attend.

Frank Niepold
President, CHHS Board


Sugarloaf Update

It has been almost a full year since Chestnut Hill College released its proposed Master Plan for the development of a new campus on the site of the 30-acre Sugarloaf estate. During this time, an extraordinary amount of effort has been expended by teams of people representing the college, their architects and the Negotiating Group (ably led by CHHS Director Larry McEwen) formed early this year under the auspices of the Community Association to conduct a community review of this massive project. Even though a final agreement is possibly months away – and despite a press moratorium adopted by the nine members of the Negotiating Group – I want to give members of the Society some sense of how things are going. <READ MORE IN OUR FALL 2010 NEWSLETTER>

CHHS Considers CHC Sugarloaf Master Plan

As has been reported in the Local, Chestnut Hill College (CHC) proposes to develop the 30+ acre “Sugarloaf” estate as part of a multi-decade program to expand the size of the college, and is requesting that the property be rezoned as an Institutional Development District (IDD). A 500-page Master Plan outlining the proposed development has been drafted by a team consisting of architects SaylorGregg, landscape architects Andropogon Associates, Ltd., and others.

In keeping with our mission to preserve and nurture the historical, physical and cultural resources and the character of Chestnut Hill, the Chestnut Hill Historical Society has initiated a series of meetings with the College and the project team and we are currently reviewing the proposed plan. <READ MORE>

Preservation Alliance's Preserve Philadelphia Initiative

Preserve Philadelphia!The Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia, as part of its Preserve Philadelphia initiative, is gathering information about area residents' opinions on Historic Preservation and how it works in Philadelphia. To take their 10-15 minute survey, click here.

Chestnut Hill Historical Society - 8708 Germantown Ave. - Philadelphia PA 19118 - 215 247-0417 - info@chhist.org
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