West Ward apart­ment com­plex, gro­cery store rec­om­mended by Eas­ton Plan­ning Com­mis­sion

The Morning Call - - LOCAL NEWS - By Christina Tatu

A re­vised pro­posal for a seven-story apart­ment com­plex with a gro­cery store and 39 apart­ment units in Eas­ton’s West Ward was rec­om­mended for ap­proval by the Eas­ton Plan­ning Com­mis­sion on Wed­nes­day night.

The nearly decade-old plan for “Dutch­town Com­mons” pro­posed by Brook­lyn na­tive Louis “Ari” Schwartz, was back be­fore the Plan­ning Com­mis­sion af­ter be­ing re­jected by city zon­ers last year.

The Eas­ton Zon­ing Hear­ing Board still needs to give fi­nal ap­proval. Its next meet­ing is Sept. 16.

Changes were made to the project to make it more ap­peal­ing to Zon­ing Hear­ing Board mem­bers who last year ex­pressed con­cern over park­ing, traf­fic and whether the size of the build­ing was out of char­ac­ter for the neigh­bor­hood, said Dutch­town Com­mons ar­chi­tect Steven Glick­man.

Changes in­clude re­duc­ing the build­ing by one story and in­stalling a re­cessed load­ing dock on the west side of the prop­erty so that trucks can back in to make de­liv­er­ies with­out block­ing traf­fic on Northamp­ton Street.

But Dutch­town Com­mons would still re­quire vari­ances for height and park­ing.

The build­ing is pro­posed to be 82.5 feet tall, though zon­ing only per­mits 70 feet.

As for park­ing, the de­vel­oper is propos­ing 49 spots in­side the build­ing spread be­tween the sec­ond floor and a base­ment level un­der­neath the mar­ket.

The project would com­bine seven parcels from 616-630 Northamp­ton St., and another one at 627 Pine St.

Rent for the 39 units would be what­ever the mar­ket rate is, Glick­man said.

The name Dutch­town Com­mons is a nod to the orig­i­nal neigh­bor­hood on the 600 block of Northamp­ton Street. The area is known as a “food desert,” where res­i­dents lack ac­cess to fresh fruits and veg­eta­bles. City of­fi­cials and West Ward res­i­dents have long de­sired a gro­cery store in the neigh­bor­hood.

“We are very hope­ful this will work and ben­e­fit the food desert that ex­ists in the neigh­bor­hood,” Schwartz said.

Wed­nes­day night’s pre­sen­ta­tion in­cluded a gro­cery store fea­si­bil­ity study con­ducted in May and a traf­fic fea­si­bil­ity study.

The mar­ket study says the build­ing would in­clude a 13,713square-foot com­mer­cial mar­ket, with 9,445 square feet set aside for re­tail sales. That area can ac­com­mo­date sev­eral po­ten­tial su­per­mar­ket op­er­a­tors for a pos­si­ble au­tumn 2022 open­ing, the study said.

Some pro­posed op­er­a­tors in­clude Tar­get, which has a small ur­ban store on Ch­est­nut Street in Philadel­phia, or gro­cery stores like C-Town, Price Right Mar­ket­place, Supremo, Bravo and Save-A-Lot, the study says.

A food co­op­er­a­tive, or co-op, which is a gro­cery store owned by pri­vate mem­bers who buy into a share of the busi­ness, isn’t rec­om­mended be­cause it can take sev­eral years to at­tract enough mem­bers, and co-ops usu­ally do best in mid­dle- and up­per-in­come neigh­bor­hoods rather than food deserts, the study says.

Ac­cord­ing to the 2010 U.S. Cen­sus, about 16% of house­holds in the area do not own a ve­hi­cle, the study says. Ac­cess to the pro­posed store would be sup­ported by four LANTA bus routes that travel di­rectly past


the site with two ad­di­tional routes that pass through the in­ter­sec­tion of Sixth and Northamp­ton streets.

The store would also ac­cept SNAP ben­e­fits and have rec­om­mended hours of 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week.

“I think a gro­cery store in this par­tic­u­lar lo­ca­tion of town is im­por­tant,” com­mis­sion mem­ber Ron­ald Ship­man said.

Plan­ning Com­mis­sion mem­bers Bill Carr, Jamie Kulick, Charles El­liott and Ship­man rec­om­mended the project for ap­proval Wed­nes­day. Robert Sun, Wil­liam Heil­man and Bon­nie Win­field were ab­sent.

Once known as part of Dutch­town, the 600 block flour­ished with the rest of the city un­til the lat­ter half of the last cen­tury, when in­vestors ei­ther fled to the sub­urbs or re­ceded into the core down­town. Build­ings fell into dis­re­pair, store­fronts dis­ap­peared and fam­ily busi­nesses la­bored to hang on.

Dur­ing the last sev­eral years, the em­bat­tled block has started to see a resur­gence as restau­rants and other small busi­nesses come into the West Ward.


A ren­der­ing by Steven Glick­man Ar­chi­tects of Eas­ton shows what Dutch­town Com­mons in the city’s West Ward would look like.

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