Riverfront Apartment Plan Moves Ahead
Commissioners voted 5-3 in favor of O'Neill Properties' tentative sketch plan for 600 Righters Ferry Road.
After years of work, contention and compromise, a plan to build a nearly 600-unit apartment complex at 600 Righters Ferry Road in Bala Cynwyd has taken a step forward.
Wednesday night, Lower Merion's Board of Commissioners voted 5-3 to approve a tentative sketch plan for the 593-unit complex on the former Connelly Container and Georgia Pacific site, which is west of Righters Ferry Road on the riverfront.
The plan comprises two apartment buildings, a 340-space parking garage, 561 surface parking spaces, a recreational trail, a 9,665-foot public gathering space, and the use of Pencoyd Bridge for vehicular and pedestrian traffic.
Board president Liz Rogan noted at a commissioners meeting earlier this month that the population from such a large development could, in and of itself, be enough to change ward lines in the township.
Addressed Concerns, Lingering Concerns
Wednesday night, commissioners voted to move the project forward by approving O'Neill Property Group's tentative sketch plan.
“The applicant went back to the drawing board and addressed some of the issues we were concerned about—just about all of the issues,” Commissioner George Manos said.
One such issue was the amount of surface parking on the site, which the applicant addressed with a structured parking garage.
"While I think everyone would agree that this is a very high density development, at this point there are very few ... conditions that could be imposed to bring it up to code," Manos said. In general, the application, with the possible except of the building material, meets the requirement of the code, he added.
No commissioners who spoke said they were totally pleased with the plan.
"This is way higher scale than I would have ever wanted, and I think the ordinance suffers from a lack of green space," Commissioner Brian Gordon said, while also commending the developer for making improvements to the site plan.
Commissioner Liz Rogan noted the benefits the Righters Ferry development will provide: pedestrian access to the Schyukill River and across the river to Manayunk, as well as provide a public sewer where there isn't one. Yet, she said, the application failed to meet the vision of the ordinance commissioners set out.
"I don’t believe this board ever envisioned two large apartment complexes on either site of a parking structure," she said of the plan.
Manos noted that commissioners will still have the chance to examine the application at the preliminary and final plan stages, before construction can begin.
Commissioners voted 5-3 to approve the tentative sketch plan.
Down The Road
Later Wednesday night, commissioners also approved a tentative sketch plan for an apartment complex a quarter mile away at 335 Righters Ferry Rd., which garnered more vocal support from commissioners than the O'Neill project.
Check back with Patch in the coming days for a story on the Nolen Properties development.
Share Your Thoughts
Are you pleased that the O'Neill project is moving forward? Is the development too big for the township? Tell us in the comments.