January 31, 2023
Manayunk residents who live along the Schuylkill River will not soon forget the destruction caused by Hurricane Ida in September 2021, when stormwater flooded homes, businesses and cars along Main Street.
Despite the damage from that historic storm, developers have not been deterred from pursuing residential projects along the flood-prone river in recent years.
Another proposal along Main Street will be discussed Feb. 7 by Philadelphia's Civic Design Review panel, a board that serves an advisory role in making recommendations to developers.
The proposal at 3900 Main St. calls for three buildings that would include 120 apartments and ground floor retail spaces for each of the buildings. Coming from the end of Main Street that insects with Ridge Avenue, near SEPTA's Wissahickon Station, the site is located beyond the Pencoyd Bridge and about a quarter mile up river from the existing BridgeFive Condominium Complex. It is also a short walk away from Main Street'smpopular business corridor.
Designed by SgRA, the residential areas of the proposed buildings would sit atop V-shaped supports over the commercial areas.
Notably, the plan calls for 52 underground parking spaces for residents and those visiting the businesses on the ground floors.
The proposal at 3900 Main St. is one of several along this former industrial stretch that have drawn scrutiny from neighborhood groups in Manayunk, where there is limited remaining real estate to develop further inland.
Just up the road, at 3811 Main St., permits were issued last summer for a 36-unit building on the northeast side of the street, further from the floodway. And at the other end of Main Street, on the flood-prone Venice Island between the river and the Manayunk Canal, Rock Urban Development aims to build a 213-unit residential complex that has faced neighborhood pushback. That proposal includes a pedestrian bridge to Main Street that would serve as an emergency exit for residents.
The proposal at 3900 Main St. would require three zoning variances — one for the project's height, another for residential use and a third because the buildings aren't set the required 50 feet back from the edge of the river.
Zoning attorneys for the owner, listed under the entity Shahab Investment LLC, told the Inquirer in September that the developers are consulting with a design team with extensive planning experience near bodies of water.
The hurricane in 2021 forced evacuations of many Manayunk residents who live near the river and flooded local businesses, causing millions of dollars in property damage. Climate change models in the region anticipate a future with warmer temperatures and more precipitation in the years ahead. Philadelphia's Climate Action Playbook specifically points to Manayunk as one of the city's high-risk areas.
"The depth and extent of flooding will increase along the Schuylkill and Delaware rivers," the report says. "This will worsen flooding near the Philadelphia International Airport, in Eastwick, in Manayunk and in other areas. It will also introduce flooding to new parts of the city. We can also expect more powerful storms like Hurricane Sandy and Irene, and these storms cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars to recover from and are a danger to human health."
There had been a proposal to build a 9-story apartment building at 3900 Main St. in 2011, and later a plan for 27 single-family homes, OCF Realty reported. Those projects never moved forward. The latest will again put the onus on the developer to present a plan that ensures long-term safety in an area that has fresh memories of the nightmare scenarios that come with powerful storms.