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East Falls Mixed-Use Development Sails Through Civic Design Review

Though the "monolithic wall" on Ridge Avenue needs some work

The Civic Design Review committee voted to conclude the CDR process for a large, mixed-use development proposed for East Falls, though not without making list of suggestions for the project.

The one and only project presented to the Civic Design Review committee at yesterday's monthly meeting was 4300-4325 Ridge Avenue, dubbed "Ridge Flats." Developer Grasso Holdings architects Morris Adjmi/Onion Flats Architecture are behind the development, which will sit on a 1.7-acre lot and include 206 residential units—20 percent of which will come furnished—and 20,188 square feet of commercial space.

It's not the first time Grasso Holdings has come to the Civic Design Review. It presented previous plans to the CDR about three years ago. Given the committee's suggestion to change the main access point of the building, "by virtue of that we had to redesign it entirely because of the way it affected parking," developer David Grasso said at the beginning of the presentation.

"So here we are with version 2.0," Grasso said.

The architects revealed renderings that features a 236,084-square-foot building that is designed to look like it's backing away from Kelly Drive and gesturing toward the Schuylkill River. In addition, there's a proposed green wall along the Kelly Drive side, which will incorporate a living art installation as part of the Percent for Art Program.

The design committee applauded the proposal and its efforts to activate a long-vacant space in a highly-trafficked area. But among the chief complaints of the committee was the "monolithic wall" proposed along Ridge Avenue.

Committee chair Nancy Rogo Trainer said, "It makes the building seem a little relentless. It would be terrific if there was some way of breaking up what could be a very monotonous building."

Some suggestions from the committee were to incorporate more public spaces along with the ground-floor retail on Ridge Avenue. Simply adding more color variation to the paneling could help, too, they said.

Aside from design, Grasso said he is in talks with three grocery store retailers for the ground-floor commercial space, as well as a restaurant-cafe along Kelly Drive. He's also considering turning some of the space into offices.

With the vote to conclude the CDR process, the project now goes to the Zoning Board of Appeals and the City Planning Commission.