A North Philadelphia community is divided over a planned four-story apartment building for about 200 Temple University international students.
Some residents have praised the project, slated for Cecil B. Moore Avenue, between Sydenham and 16th streets. The Rev. Lewis Nash, of Faith Deliverance Church, said he supports the project because it will reduce blight and create both construction jobs and permanent ones once the 106-unit building opens.
But others, both community residents and developers of smaller-scale housing, are crying foul.
They say Beech Interplex, developer of the project, is not providing required parking for its tenants. A spokesman for Beech recently told the Daily News that the international students don't have cars.
Critics also say that Beech, which has stated that its mission is to boost the commercial revitalization of Cecil B. Moore Avenue, is skimping on street-level commercial space in order to put more residential units for students on the first floor.
"The [first] floor should be devoted to the existence of retail shops that benefit the community, which suffers from a dearth of retail services in the area," Vivian VanStory, president of Community Land Trust Corp., a community housing organization, yesterday told members of the Zoning Board of Adjustment.
Plans call for at least one restaurant on the first floor. Shawn D. Ward, a lawyer for Beech, said there are at least three spaces devoted to commercial enterprises, but there are currently no tenants for two of the spots.
Judith Robinson, a homeowner spoke out against the plan.
"This parcel is made up of land that's owned by the Redevelopment Authority and Philadelphia Housing Authority and they're taking public land for private use," said Robinson, of Woodstock Street near Diamond.
In regard to the lack of parking, Ward told the zoning board that Temple has promised to allow any of the international students to use parking spaces in the parking garage of the nearby Liacouras Center.
"The issue here that we're protesting is equal justice under the law," Schraeter said.
Schraeter said that smaller-scale developers had been turned down for variances concerning parking and the amount of open space.
"Because when the issue came up," he said, "we were confronted by the very same battery of politicians who objected to granting the variances based on the theory that we would be increasing the density of the population in the area and the traffic." *