Thursday, April 24, 2014

AAA Makes Its Case for Riverfront Auto Repair, Community Meeting Scheduled for April 29th

Last week, AAA presented its plan to the Philadelphia City Planning Commission to transform the now-cleared parcel of land on the southeast corner of Tasker Street and Columbus Boulevard into an auto-centric repair facility with a retail component. The issue at hand is whether or not a facility primarily used for services cars would be the best use for a prime, undeveloped stretch of land that would run alongside the future Tasker Street Connector, a key point of access to the Delaware River Trail for neighbors and visitors alike.

Columbus Boulevard at Tasker Street from back in November 2013. The AAA proposal would be on the right

Officials and civic groups argue that the plan is not inline with the Central Delaware River Master Plan and the Central Delaware Overlay, which prohibits auto-centric development points east of Columbus Boulevard. According to Kellie Patrick Gates of PlanPhilly:
“Adding another auto-focused development at this very key intersection for South Philadelphia and the waterfront adds more cars, more congestion, and is exactly the opposite of the city's goals for Columbus Boulevard and for the waterfront,” said Karen Thompson, planner/project manager at the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation, the agency that oversaw development of the waterfront master plan...
...Thompson reminded the board that they unanimously adopted the Master Plan for the Central Delaware last year. She said that Tasker Street is an especially important street for pedestrian and cyclist access to the trail that runs behind the big box stores, and it will be Pennsport's only means of connecting to that waterfront.
She noted the site to the north that Blatstein just purchased would likely become an urban, walkable, mixed-use development in keeping with the master plan. Allowing this adjacent property to develop “in the way development happened 10 years ago” would set an unfortunate precedent and “set the Master Plan back just as it's beginning to take hold and create positive change for the waterfront.”
AAA says their permit was legally obtained through L&I and that their plans are sensitive to the Master Plan. Going so far to call it “It's extremely urban”  due to shifting the building to the street corner (instead of in the middle of the lot) and keeping access to the garage bays on the interior of the lot. More from PlanPhilly:
"Primavera [AAA's Attorney] said from either Delaware or Tasker, the business would seem like any store or restaurant, with its customer entry and windows facing the street. The travel agency/store would be located behind these windows. The 10 auto bays are located in the rear of the building, with five visible along the southern-most facade, which faces the Home Depot parking lot. The other five bays can't be seen from the outside, but a single door that provides access is located on the eastern most facade. This is the facade closest to the river, but its immediate neighbor is Home Depot's outdoor storage.
Here's what it looks like (images via PlanPhilly by way of AI Design Group):

AAA as seen from Columbus Boulevard and Tasker Street

The interior of the AAA plan
There will be a public meeting regarding this proposal on Tuesday, April 29th starting at 7pm at the EOM (138 Moore Street).

Whether you're for, against, or would just like more information about this project, the community meeting offers you a chance to get involved in a major development in Pennsport that has the potential to drastically shape the future of the Tasker Street Connector. 

If you're in to signing petitions, This Old City currently has one floating around regarding the AAA proposal:
Philly Planners are a good group of folks, and they may well want to do the right thing. But they need to hear from us that the public is strongly behind them putting the kibosh on new sprawl. This is why it's so important that you sign and share this petition.
Philadelphia deserves better.


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