by Wesley Ratko

Representatives from Bowman Properties appeared before the Land Use Planning and Zoning Committee Thursday night, May 3, to present plans that illustrate their progress on the schematic design for the Fresh Market building planned for 8200 Germantown Avenue, the site of the former Magarity Ford.

Bowman’s managing partner Richard Snowden began the presentation by explaining its purpose as a “checkpoint” along the way. This and two other progress reports, expected between now and mid-October satisfy elements of Bowman’s agreement with the Chestnut Hill Community Association, which were made last December.

The committee did not take any formal action on the plans, but appointed members to a technical review subcommittee to examine further the schematics and elevation drawings distributed by Bowman.

Richard Gelber, one of two of the project architects, presented the schematic layout of the building. He said the purpose of the presentation was to look at the progress being made to the design and receive feedback from the committee.

Gelber explained that the building has been pushed back from the property line along Hartwell Lane. The sketch showed planters placed along the building edge. As designed, the building height is currently 59 feet. The rules governing the design limited the height at 60 feet.

After listening to most of Gelber’s comments, committee co-chair Cynthia Brey questioned whether the design Bowman presented Thursday truly complied with the development standards agreed to last year and codified in the document known as the term sheet.

Snowden referred Brey to a letter, signed by Gelber and distributed to committee members, which states that the schematics presented to the committee comply “with the Development Standards of the term sheet.”

“That’s the end of the discussion,” he said.

Snowden added that the size of the building has not been expanded beyond the limits agreed to last year.

Committee co-chair John Landis said that the early design was subject to a change that moved the residential farther back over the market and asked whether the subsequent design included that change. Gelber confirmed that it did.

“The term sheet rules,” Snowden reiterated.

Stan Runyan, the other project architect, presented sketches of the building façade that, Bowman representatives said were still “a work in progress.” Runyan showed a building front along Germantown Avenue with three entrances, which Runyan described as “townhouse-like.”

“This [design] is much friendlier,” he said. “Ninety percent of the daily effort are really changes that make it look like it belongs in Chestnut Hill.”

To that end, Runyan described the materials intended for the façade as schist up to the first ten feet, with a blue stone cap between the windows. The upper floors will feature brick, with antique-style wrought iron railings.

“What I was hoping this would be from the get-go is a quiet, dignified presence,” Snowden said. “The goal here was to make this building a good neighbor, not to make a statement.”

Committee member Andrew Moroz asked about plans for storm water management on the site. Project manager Seth Shapiro said they have conceptual approval from the Philadelphia Water Department. “We’re subject to the new regulations,” he said.

“In addition to bioswales, green roofs, and other plantings, we’re also increasing the amount of underground retention basins under the parking lot,” said Gelber. A bioswale is any landscape element that removes silt and other debris from rain water runoff. Shapiro added that the latest plans also include some pervious pavement – pavement that allows rain water to filter down through it instead of run off into other channels.

Plans for the town homes along Shawnee Street were not discussed Thursday. Landis explained that the reason for this was the two processes underway here. One is the discussion of the community development agreement, which includes the Shawnee Street town homes, and the review of the 8200 Germantown Ave. property, which does not. Thursday’s meeting only addressed the 8200 Germantown Ave. property. Design and construction of the homes along Shawnee Street will be discussed at a later date.

Shapiro said that as of Thursday, construction of the market building will begin before the townhouses along Shawnee Street.

“The townhouses may or may not be under construction when the market opens,” he said. As for construction of 8200, Shapiro said he “would love to apply for a building permit by the end of October.”

Finally, Snowden referred to concerns and rumors regarding the fate of the building if Fresh Market opts out.

“We have a signed lease,” Snowden said. “They’ve invested a lot of money on this site. If there are rumors out there about [Fresh Market not moving in], there’s no validity to them.”