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Pennrose Development Goes Before Zoning Hearing Board Tonight

Residents opposing the proposed mixed-income development have circulated on online petition in the hopes of stopping the project.

A proposed mixed-income development planned for DeKalb and Airy streets in Norristown (on the site of the county-owned parking lot) has drawn ire from some residents who feel the project – touted by the municipality as a boon to Norristown's burgeoning arts-oriented redevelopment – is actually a boondoggle.

The development, proposed by Philadelphia-based Pennrose Properties LLC, is for a mixed-use, mixed-income apartment complex featuring 96 units (69 one-bedroom/loft and 27 two-bedroom apartments) and 5,000 square feet of ground-level retail space. 

To proceed, the developers need zoning board approval of two variances for use and parking. That matter will come before the zoning hearing board tonight at 7 p.m. at Norristown Municipal Hall.

Council and some community leaders have been supportive of the project, which would offer state tax credit-subsidized rents on some units, as a means to lure artists and other creative types to Norristown's budding Arts Hill area, but some residents are opposed to the development, citing concerns that the development won't be as attractive to the target artist audience as the municipality and developers hope.

"Artists need huge, huge lofts," local artist and business owner Aleksandra Eigen told attendees at a recent meeting about the project, according to The Times Herald. "Artists don't have money. It is not easy to live in this town. You need to approach this project from a different angle."

In a letter to the editor about the project, local architect Doug Seiler noted that the Pennrose project "runs counter to the Norristown Comprehensive Plan* in several critical ways" – namely by taking up a huge swath of parking used by the neighboring community and adding more subsidized housing stock to Norristown (something it already has an abundance of.) 

Seiler also said he believes the Arts Hill isn't currently developed enough to attract the target audience they're looking for. As Seiler puts it, "No scene, no hipsters."

Residents have launched several online petitions to oppose the project. One petition focuses on protecting the historic Montgomery County Jail. A suggested second phase of the project may impact part of the historic property, though a representative of the developer told council at a recent meeting that their intention was historic preservation and Pennrose would only proceed with public support. A second petition focuses on opposing the Pennrose development directly. The two petitions have garnered almost 400 signatures so far. Residents opposing the project have also created a Facebook page, Norristown Nudge, to coordinate their efforts.

Residents opposing the project are expected to speak at tonight's zoning hearing board about their concerns.

* You can download a copy of the Norristown's Comprehensive Plan in our PDF section.

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Pennrose Development Project Planned for DeKalb and Airy Sparks Protest

Gail March 26, 2013 at 05:25 PM
Has anyone told the artists that this is a very high crime area? Doesn't matter that the police department is down the street. Shootings all over the place. Would not want my child living in the line of fire.
Intheweeds March 26, 2013 at 09:00 PM
This will be interesting. CHOP comes in with a $100 million project that will create jobs and surrounding support businesses. Council's reaction: Get out of here. Some carpetbagging Philly developer wants to put up low-income subsidized housing that will do nothing other than take away business district parking. Councils reaction: GREAT, build away.
Imagine March 27, 2013 at 06:37 PM
Just like all the townhouses they built all around charging hundred thousands and the people bought them so fast without checking the surroundings and now they are stuck in their mortgage loan. Do your homework before you move and make sure you know shootings and burglaries will be on every side of this complex. Norristown is so greedy for money, money hungry folks. It will not make money and will be a waste as the townhouses. They all have sale signs unless they find a section 8 renter.

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