First, I'll start by reminding everyone that the last workshop on the proposed zoning rules is tomorrow, Thursday, 6 pm, at the Human Resources Building, Fornance and Dekalb (the old Sacred Heart Hospital). The first workshop went 2 hours, the 2nd, about 70 minutes (they rushed us through so they could get to the reception for the new municipal manager, which, of course, should never have been scheduled the same night). Hopefully we won't let them rush us tomorrow, and all our questions/concerns will be addressed. The workshop will cover the old hospital zoning area primarily (ie, how it's being zoned now that we no longer have hospitals there), and a few other spots in the North End, but you can bring questions about anywhere else in town. And you should. This is your last chance.
Next, I want to talk about a couple of the other projects approved by Council at last week's meeting. Here are examples of developers who are following the zoning rules, or at least, asking for reasonable waivers. From what I can tell, these projects should be good for Norristown.
The Curren Terrace apartment complex (Fornance and New Hope) wants to erect another building with 36 units, plus a clubhouse with a pool. There's a large empty lot on their property and it's already zoned for apartments. One house-owner in the area sent a letter expressing concern about street parking. The plan, however, shows that the apartment building would be between the street and the parking lot. The entrances would be on the lot side, to discourage apartment dwellers from parking on the street (they'd have to walk all the way around the building to get in). So that seemed to answer that concern. Otherwise, no one objected.
The old Kennedy-Kenrick High School and land surrounding it at Johnson Highway and Arch Street is due to become a senior housing center for residents aged 55 and older. The campus would hold 208 housing units, ranging from apartments to small cottages. A building with retail space and medical offices would also be included. The corner is zoned for apartments. While there are houses across Arch Street, there is currently no street parking there to quibble over, and that part of the development won't be dense.
How else does Kennedy-Kenrick differ from the much-protested
development at 1202 Dekalb? For one thing, the whole project averages
only about 17 housing units per acre, about half that of the
high-density developments on Dekalb. The Kennedy-Kenrick project is on
the edge of town and is situated so that it shouldn't impact the
neighborhood in a negative way. It puts to good use a large vacant
building. It serves a need we already know exists--that is, the senior
housing facilities in town all have long waiting lists. Residents
shouldn't be hard to find. And since it will also house some who are
pre-retirement age, they'll be paying earned income taxes at least
another 10 years. The businesses on property will also pay taxes.
Peck, the developer for 1202 Dekalb, was quick to point out that her
development provided .2 more parking spaces per unit than
Kennedy-Kenrick (whatever that means, since you can't park 2/10ths of a
car). But many of the residents at Kennedy-Kenrick won't drive because
of their age. If you check out the parking lot at Rittenhouse on a
weekend (when the nursing staff isn't at the rehab center), you'll find
plenty of spaces. Even during the week, I've only ever had to park on
Pine Street once while visiting someone. This isn't a problem since the
houses across the street are large enough to have at least 3 spots each
in front of them.
Only time will tell if Curren Terrace and
Kennedy-Kenrick will be good, high-quality developments that enhance
Norristown, but I'm more like to trust a developer who tries to work
within the zoning, especially ones who understand the concerns of the