How Properties teaming with neighborhood for good design


How Properties plans to develop a 132 unit apartment building at t 4420 Ridge Ave (aka 4501 Kelly Drive).  How Properties wants to use the adjacent publicly owned parking lot for overflow parking for the development and for the public.  Gary Jonas, the owner, is planning to make improvements to the lot. We plan to partner with How Properties on this project because we want to improve parking and move us closer to having a connecting street between Ridge Ave. and Kelly Drive at this location.   

We also want to make sure that the new building works in the Riverfront Business District.  The project is permitted by zoning.  The only regulatory requirement is that it goes before the Civic Design Review committee.  This is a relatively new process under the new zoning code that requires larger projects to have design input.  The code also puts community members in the seat – giving voice to our two local Registered Community Organizations – East Falls Forward and East Falls Community Council.

As the Director of the East Falls Development Corporation, I suggested that our three organizations meet with How Properties to give input into the design in a way that would be coordinated and professional. Fortunately, the organizations and How Properties agreed and have sent representatives to a series of meetings.  They are architects, design professionals and interested community members having in depth and thoughtful conversations about design.

They have focused on improving the look of the building in these ways:  the colors and contrast between the colors, increasing the verticality of the look of the building so that it looks like it comes from the ground and reaches toward the sky instead of being horizontal in orientation (materials and design affect this appearance), and the treatment of the sides of the building.  While a good portion of the sides may have tree coverage, the trees may not always be there and are also thinner in the winter months.  The building should have a quality look at all times of the year.  There is also a lot of attention on the plaza on Ridge Avenue and how it functions with the proposed retail space.  And, of course, the Kelly Drive side of the building must respect the green buffer and be an attractive gateway into the neighborhood.

How’s architects have been very responsive in the discussions.  They are revising the plans for the next meeting of the Civic Design Review committee in late November.  After that, the developer expects to pull permits to begin construction in the spring of 2017.  Because the project depends on the additional parking, the community will see a request for a variance for the improvements to the adjacent parking lot.  The EFDC will be the applicant.  We will sublease the lot to How Properties to improve and maintain, while we remain in control of the lot.


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