Another large apartment building for Germantown Avenue

by Tom Beck
Posted 1/16/24

Mt. Airy residents now have an idea of what they can expect to see on the 6900 block of Germantown Avenue.

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Another large apartment building for Germantown Avenue


Mt. Airy residents now have an idea of what they can expect to see in place of the soon-to-be-demolished two-story house across the street from Germantown Home on the 6900 block of Germantown Avenue. That’s because TierView development presented revised plans for a four-story, 79-unit building, complete with 24 parking spaces, at Friday’s Philadelphia Historical Commission meeting. 

The new building, if ultimately approved by the commission, would sit across the street from Germantown Home and right next door to the Lovett Memorial Library on an especially green, tree-lined block of Germantown Avenue between two halves of Mt. Airy’s business corridor.

It would also have frontage on both Germantown Avenue and Gorgas Lane, wrapping around behind the historically designated Joseph Gorgas House, which is located on the corner of Germantown Avenue and Gorgas Lane at 6901 Germantown Ave. 

On Friday, the commission voted to send TierView Development back to the beginning of the approval process because it made significant revisions to its proposal, which it submitted in December. The changes were made after receiving negative feedback from the architectural committee, which recommended the proposal be denied.

The revised proposal features three main alterations: the design of the window openings was changed to a more industrial look and the color of the facade went from green to tan. The new proposal also shows a corbeled cornice.

“This would be enough of a change to a principal facade that the architectural committee should take a look at that beforehand,” said Historical Commission chairman Bob Thomas.

The commission’s decision gives its architectural committee, which must provide input for all new development proposals on historically designated properties, the opportunity to see TierView’s revised plans. TierView will present its new plans to the full committee at its next scheduled meeting. 

“I think we took the committee's comments to heart,” said architect Carey Jackson Yonce, principal at Canno Design. “We were able to address…every single comment that [the committee] brought up.”

Despite the changes, residents who spoke during the meeting’s public comment section were still mostly unhappy with the proposal.

“I think what we're seeing is an aggressively contemporary and modern design notwithstanding the changes that were made in the revised submission, and I think that represents a misunderstanding of the historic context of this site and frankly of Germantown Avenue,” said Paul Steinke, executive director of the Preservation Alliance For Greater Philadelphia. “I would hope that the architect would come back with something that reflects a more traditional approach.”

Oscar Beisert, a Germantown resident and architectural historian, criticized the way the building fronts both Germantown Avenue and Gorgas Lane, wrapping around the historic Gorgas House.

The [Gorgas] House “is suddenly going to be set in an alcove of siding and windows and a four-story wall,” he said. “The fact that it wraps around the [Gorgas] House is going to forever destroy the feeling of that house being on its own lot and having any kind of sense of separation from this massive apartment house.”

Beisert suggested the parking be reoriented in a way that keeps the facade from wrapping around the Gorgas House, which was designated to the city’s Register of Historic Places in 1957.

“The fact that [TierView’s proposal] wraps around the house is going to forever destroy the feeling of the house having its own lot and any sense of separation from this massive apartment [building],” he said.

Another commenter, architect David Traub, criticized the building’s small windows, which he said “emphasize the mass of the building.”

“I think if you were driving down Germantown [Avenue] and looking over at this building you’d be doing a double take seeing all those little windows,” he said.

The development team already has a permit to demolish the two-story house currently present at 6915 Germantown Ave., which is not historically designated. The location had been previously used by nonprofit behavioral health and education provider Merakey to house disabled people. 

Ken Weinstein, owner of Philly Office Retail, previously referred to the 6900 block of Germantown Avenue, which falls between Gorgas Lane and Sedgwick Street, as “a missing tooth in the business district.”

“There are businesses on the 6800 block to the south and on the 7000 block to the north, but it’s interrupted on the 6900 block,” he said in July.

Ideally, he said, development on that block should have some commercial space so that Germantown Avenue could be a continuous commercial corridor.

“Those small businesses need more customers to help them survive,” he said. “That’s why we need more density on Germantown Avenue.”