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Manayunk’s Venice Island eyes more development with rezoning bill

Townhouses could be on the way to the island

A site on Venice Island in Manayunk may be rezoned to allow for residential development.
Courtesy of Google Earth Pro

A zoning bill that would allow for more residential development along Manayunk’s Venice Island has been moving through city government over the past few weeks, though it just hit a slight road bump at the City Planning Commission meeting on Tuesday.

At the planning staff’s recommendation, the commission unanimously voted to shelve a decision on the bill for another 45 days, which would give a proposed development project time to go through the appropriate rezoning process with the community and the Civic Design Review board.

Bill No. 170997 was proposed by Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr. on November 16, and passed through the Committee on Rules this month. It calls for a master plan that would rezone Venice Island, specifically the area bounded by the Manayunk Canal, Green Lane, the Schuylkill River, and Leverington Avenue.

Currently, the land is zoned CMX-2, which allows for commercial mixed-use development. The bill would rezone it to RM-2 to allow developers to build residential there.

A preliminary rendering of the proposed townhome development.
Rendering by Varenhorst
The proposed master plan.

The future of Venice Island has been a point of debate since the late 1990s, when two developments were proposed and approved by the zoning board for the site, despite being located in an area highly prone to flooding. After years of being tied up in the courts, Carl Dranoff eventually built 128 apartments on the island in 2007. Another apartment project called the Isle followed in 2016.

Now, another developer wants to take the townhome route on Venice Island. A 400,000-square-foot property owned by Dan Neducsin located a quarter-mile south of Venice Lofts has sat vacant and overgrown for years. After originally proposing a 280-unit development here almost a decade ago, Neducsin now envisions the site as a 68-townhome development within 10 buildings, plus 128 parking spaces, both garage and at surface level.

Neducsin told the Inquirer in November that now’s the time to bring townhomes to the site, when Manayunk is expected to deliver thousands of rentals in the next few years. “We have a huge advantage over kind of anything—to me, it’s one of the best sites in the city,” he said. “You can see the influx of people coming [to Manayunk], and it’s a higher income group.”

In response to the site being in a floodplain, Neducsin says he would raise the grade of the site. In addition, the developer sent a letter to FEMA requesting a flood zone change designation, according to the planning staff. It’s not clear whether FEMA will honor the request.

Meanwhile, the developer still has to meet with the Manayunk Neighborhood Council, which has said it is mostly in favor of development of the site, though it still has concerns about flooding—Venice Lofts flooded in 2014 and residents were rescued by boat.

The proposed development project then has to go through the Civic Design Review process before returning to the City Planning Commission. City Council will then make a final decision before permits can be issued.

Update: The design proposal will be presented at the Civic Design Review on Tuesday, January 9.