February 28, 2001
To provide a more complete set of facts about the proposed developments on Venice Island, three main points must be considered.
A. An update on the status and scope of the development proposals.

The former Connelly Container Corporation site (developer Realan Properties) was approved for 270 apartment units. Variances to floodway restrictions and zoning codes have been granted by the Zoning Board of Adjustments (ZBA). This approval is being appealed by Manayunk Neighborhood Council, The Friends of the Manayunk Canal, and the Sierra Club. The Zoning Board has just released an explanation of their decision.

The former Namico Soap factory (developer Dranoff Inc.) has been approved for 160 apartment units. This project has been granted variances to the floodway restrictions and zoning codes and is being appealed by the groups listed above. The Zoning Board presented the "Finding of Fact" a few weeks ago. The lawyer for the appellants (listed above) is now preparing a response.

B. A listing of all proposed residential units in the area that will have a combined impact on the traffic in the Main St., Umbria St., and Green Lane Bridge corridors.

Connelly: 270 rental units, Cotton Street [Approved and under Appeal]

Namico: 160 rental units, Flat Rock Road & Leverington Ave., [Approved and under Appeal]

Arroyo: 88 units on Venice Island between the Arroyo Cafe and Green Lane. [Not yet submitted to zoning]

100 Leverington Ave: 56 rental units [Approved]

Gay and Fleming Sts.: 67 rental units [Approved]

Hunters Point: 200 units, Shawmont Ave. and Umbria St. [Approved]

These developments can be expected to add well over 1,000 cars to the morning commute.

Bridge gif 100 Leverington gif Main St gif

Evening Traffic Jam (May 5, 2000): Arroyo Cafe; 'Cinco de Mayo' event adds 700 cars to evening rush and gridlocks Green Lane Bridge and Main Street for over 4 hours.

C. A careful examination of the projected benefits and liabilities these developments will bring to the community. Some benefits being presented for the Connelly Container site are:

1. Beautification of an industrial eyesore.

2. Clean up of an environmentally contaminated property.

3. Establishment of new public walkways along the river and canal.

4. Increased landscaping and open space.

5. A new parking garage for Main Street with approximately 200 new covered parking spaces to be available to the general public (in addition to one reserved parking space for every bedroom in the new complex).

6. Financial support for both Pretzel Park and the Venice Island Playground.

While all these are desirable improvements, these results could be achieved by other projects on Venice Island. For example, those who appealed the ZBA's decision repeatedly advocated for other uses for the site such as passive recreation, modern office space, or non-polluting light industry. All produce less traffic and less danger.

A major liability for the development is the lack of safety for the people with their property and cars residing in the floodway of the Schuylkill River. Unequivocal testimony was presented before the ZBA by swift water rescue experts. One of whom, Steve Miller, was previously consulted by the U.S. Congress on national flood issues and who testified that if people are allowed to live on Venice Island, "sooner or later somebody is going to die down there." (Deputy Chief Steve Miller, Montgomery County, MD, Swift Water Rescue expert)

Another important liability is the adverse effect the cars from these 270 apartments will have on the daily commute, especially when added to the other proposed residential developments. The impact will be particularly acute during the morning rush and will further erode the quality of life, on a daily basis, of those living in Manayunk and Roxborough. The development is almost twice the density stipulated by the City Planning Commission.

Providing additional parking on the island does not have to be linked to apartment units. There are also severe technical and legal problems with underground parking on Venice Island. Extra public parking spaces may never be realized as a result of this residential project.

Alternate uses could accomplish the same improvements on VI without the downside. Other uses would not increase the flood dangers or traffic problems. Pretzel Park, as a result of over $200,000 in funding, is already undergoing substantial renovations and improvements.