DRC reviews plans for new market
Local entrepreneur Jennifer Zoga last week took another step toward building community support for an upscale, gourmet convenience store at 12 W. Willow Grove Ave.
At the July 21 meeting of the Chestnut Hill Community Association’s Development Review Committee, Zoga emphasized her commitment to making the Good Food Market a walkable urban grocery store where shoppers can buy healthy prepared meals when they don’t feel like cooking and pick up necessities like bread and milk between trips to the supermarket.
“This is not supposed to replace the regular supermarket,” she told the committee and 15 concerned neighbors of the market.
Still, a group of 78 neighbors has signed a petition claiming that the market will adversely affect their quality of life.
Parking and traffic congestion are among their most pressing issues with Zoga’s business model. Zoga said she plans to limit the number of parking spots for customers picking up prepared food orders to three, and she cited as evidence of a primarily pedestrian customer base a petition signed by 129 community residents and workers who are eager to walk to the market and shop.
Zoga has acknowledged that the lack of available parking spots could be a problem, but she thinks the store’s walkability and the number of open spots on Germantown Avenue will prevent further traffic congestion in the vicinity. She also said she wanted to set product deliveries and trash pickup for 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., when traffic tends to thin out.
Mike Flynn, a resident of the unit block of Willow Grove Avenue and a commercial realtor who helped broker the sale of the former Caruso’s Market to Weavers Way, laid out the neighbors’ concerns but concluded that “we’re willing to proceed with this on a conditional basis.”
“We are doubtful she can implement this day-in, day-out,” he added.
Jason Bologna, who also lives across from the market, took issue with Zoga’s customer and revenue projections of 150 customers a day spending an average of $35.“I have a hard time accepting those numbers,” he said. “My sense is that it will be twice the number of people estimated.”
Bologna based his projections on Zoga’s plans to sell gelato and coffee. Zoga needs a zoning variance to sell prepared takeout food or drink, according to the city zoning code for C-1 properties.
Joe Rapone, a former neighbor of the property, challenged Flynn’s core argument but did not explicitly state his support for Zoga’s proposal.
“If it’s a bad business plan and parking’s a problem, no one will go there,” he said. “It will work itself out.”
DRC co-chair Greg Woodring urged Zoga to “quantify” how her business would impact the neighborhood by providing as many statistical projections as she could in her business plan.
Zoga is expected to meet with the CHCA’s Land Use, Planning and Zoning Committee at Chestnut Hill Baptist Church, 2 Bethlehem Pike, at 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 6. The meeting is open to the public.
She is also expected to meet with the board’s Traffic, Transportation and Parking Committee and the Chestnut Hill Historical Society before proceeding to the CHCA board for a full vote.
Because the board has standing before the city’s Zoning Board of Adjustments, Zoga is likely to have her variance approved by the ZBA if the CHCA board votes in support of her plan.The ZBA hearing, which has not yet been scheduled, is also open to the public.