Big changes for both ends of a busy East Falls corridor.
This month’s Community Council meeting focused on two stretches of Henry Avenue neighbors should be very familiar with: PhillyU’s campus and Grace Kelly’s childhood home.
The University’s zoning is all set thanks to “SPIN” legislation that passed late last year, but Ellen Sheehan of EF’s Historical Society confirmed plans for the Kelly House (recently purchased by Prince Albert) that will likely require community support for variances.
After a recent meeting with J.B. Kelly III, son of John B. Kelly, Jr — Grace’s brother, an Olympic rower and Philadelphia councilman (who Kelly Drive is named for) — Ellen was told the Prince would like his mother’s childhood home to remain just that: a home. He wants to visit here with his wife & children, to a house that’ll be warmly furnished and decorated with family treasures displayed in the open, not sealed behind glass.
Even so, the Prince plans to dedicate one room specifically for Kelly family history, including some selections from our Historical Society’s wealth of Grace Kelly memorabilia (some of which is currently on display at Falls Center). He’d also like to use some of the house as offices for his foundation, which aims to address our planet’s alarming environmental situation thru research, innovation, and social awareness.
Since the property is zoned for only residential, the plans will require variances to allow for museum & office space. In addition, new zoning will likely be needed to add a 2nd story to the property’s 3-car garage, to create accommodations for a live-in caretaker.
Ellen’s happy to offer the Historical Society’s support, especially since the Prince is open to community engagement. Perhaps performances in the garden, and refreshments inside? Maybe opening up for House Tours? Ellen feels there are a lot of possibilities, and although no specific variances have been requested yet, she’s excited about working together soon.
WANT A PERSONAL TOUR OF THE KELLY HOUSE? Come out for the Falls of Schuylkill Library’s Winterlude and place your bid for a guided walk through these historic halls with none other than J.B. Kelly III, himself.
This popular event also includes wine, champagne, desserts, music, and many other exciting items on auction. Saturday, February 25, 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm. Tickets just $20 at the door.
Meanwhile, on PhillyU’s campus — the “maiden voyage” of the University’s new SPIN zoning is underway: a new Health and Science Center addition to Hayward Hall off Henry Avenue. Plans have already been submitted to L&I, no variance should be required (since plans fall within the specs of the “Master Plan” approved in December).
PhillyU reps Jeff Cromarty and Tom Becker showed some renderings to Monday night’s audience, and asked for informal input — since the building is by-right now, community concerns don’t necessarily halt or change anything. That’s not to say neighbors have no voice: both men stressed that the University still views their growth as a collaborative process with East Falls.
Indeed, when an audience member requested the architects consider special glass to prevent bird strikes, Jeff and Tom apologized for not having more information, and agreed to bring the matter up with design teams asap (they’re aiming for LEED Silver, btw). “FUN” FACT: over 600 million North American birds die each year from flying into glass (including many species at home in our Wissahickon).
Construction is slated to begin this Fall (following some preliminary work over the Summer), and finish up during the 2018-19 academic year. Throughout the process, PhillyU will continue to present updates at community meetings to address questions and concerns.
As for the University’s merger with Thomas Jefferson University — Jeff rather apologetically offered there wasn’t much news to report yet. The deal is still being reviewed to make sure it complies with all Anti-Trust legislation (as Thomas Jefferson University is merging with other institutions as well). They’re aiming for June 30th, fingers crossed.
PhillyU still isn’t sure what name they’ll be changing to, either. They’ve hired a branding firm and are still waiting for further consideration.
In other news: a new group is forming to take East Falls’ farmer’s market to the next level in 2017. More vendors, more variety, plus events! Kids, dogs, bikes, pop-ups — whatever it takes to create “a real destination.” Opening day is June 3rd, the same day as Falls Flea, so brain-storming is underway for a fantastic day of shopping that’ll hopefully create buzz to last throughout the season.
Annnd finally, security-minded Fallsers take note: Lt. McFadden, an officer representing our Police District’s service area,will be meeting with Town Watch on Thursday, February 16th at 6:00 pm in PhillyU’s Kanbar Center, room #302. Neighbors welcome! A great opportunity to bring up questions and concerns about security, traffic, parking, etc.
HATE MEETINGS? You’ll love East Falls Forward‘s monthly Social Hour (3721 Midvale), where a diverse mix of neighbors gather to catch up informally on new business & development in East Falls. Hang around for community presentations — or not. Everyone’s in the e-loop, so face-time is optional.