Neighbors against plans for apartments in Eastwick

Posted: June 12, 2012

Eastwick residents are expected to flood a City Council hearing Tuesday to oppose a proposed zoning change that would allow Korman Residential to redevelop acres of green space near Philadelphia International Airport.

"The Eastwick community does not want this project," said Carol Simmons, 66, whose family lives nearby. "And I will fight it tooth and nail."

Korman Residential wants to build a $102 million, 722-unit, two-story apartment complex on the area bounded by Lindbergh Boulevard, 84th Street and Mario Lanza Boulevard.

The area, owned by the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority, is a giant, vacant green space that is home to wildlife.

Councilman Kenyatta Johnson introduced two bills on May 17, including one that would change the zoning of the area from single-family owners to multifamily rentals.

Residents complained Wednesday night at the Mercy Wellness Center that Korman and Johnson had left them "in the dark" about the massive project.

Residents who have lived in the flood-prone area for decades were concerned about water management and the impact of replacing the green space with an apartment complex.

"There would be a lot of concrete and the water has nowhere to go," said Debbie Beer of Eastwick Friends and Neighbors Coalition.

Residents also worried about increased traffic, crime, rising property taxes and the future of area wildlife.

Peter Kelsen, an attorney for Korman, said the company will work with the Water Department and Johnson to address concerns.

"I'm looking at it as an economic project for that part of Southwest Philadelphia. It's barren land," Johnson said, adding that neighbors complained of illegal dumping.

"I want to make sure that moving forward that the issues and concerns are addressed, but more importantly there's a better relationship between Korman and members of the actual community," Johnson said.

In 1958, the area — which included churches, schools and houses — was condemned, said Paul Chrystie, spokesman for the RDA. The land was a part of an urban-renewal program to which Korman has the rights.

"This was not to be an area that was going to be a preservation zone," Kelsen said, adding that under the current zoning code the plan would have been more dense.

Korman, which manages 1,048 apartments in Eastwick, plans to build the apartments on 35 acres and to use another 8.5 acres for commercial development. The complex would be built in four phases and completed in 2018.

Rents would be between $1,100 and $1,500. n

Contact Jan Ransom at 215-854-5218 or ransomj@phillynews.com or follow on Twitter @Jan_Ransom.

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