A Northern Liberties property owner is pushing to build a Wawa with gas pumps and a parking garage at a site just blocks from the Delaware waterfront—and neighborhood residents are torn over the issue.
The proposal—which is still in its early stages—was put forth by landowner US Realty and their attorney, Carl Primavera, during a Northern Liberties Neighborhood Association (NLNA) meeting last week. It would see a Wawa with several gas pumps and a multi-level parking garage go in at the intersection of North Front and Spring Garden streets, which is owned by US Realty and is now home to a surface lot.
US Realty owns an office building to the south of the lot as well. They came up with the idea of a Wawa and parking garage after learning that Festival Pier—where many of their tenants currently park—is being redeveloped and that they’ll have to find parking elsewhere, Primavera said.
The idea for the garage came first—Primavera said that it’s desperately needed—and then the owners they realized they could bring a Wawa in, too. It’s something Primavera said will help boost the desirability
of the neighborhood.
“If it’s just the parking lot then it’s a missed opportunity,” Primavera said. “Wawa is a nice amenity.”
But not all of the residents agree. Last week’s proposal was met with mixed responses from community members, some of whom took issue with the pumps and how the development might infringe on the zoning regulations of the Central Delaware Overlay (CDO).
“The Central Delaware Advocacy Group is opposed to this because it will bust the overlay,” said Matt Ruben, President of the NLNA and chair of the Central Delaware Advocacy Group (CDAG), who attended the meeting last week. The overlay guides development of that section of the waterfront, and restricts construction of new gas stations in the area.
“If the waterfront is going to be an enjoyable place for pedestrians, development needs to be at a human scale, and auto-oriented uses can’t be allowed to dominate,” says an outline of the CDO on the Delaware Waterfront’s website.
“A lot of people are passionate about the waterfront,” Primavera said of the concerns raised about the potential gas pumps so close to the waterfront.
Primavera said he took issue with the argument that the Wawa would be a gas station and therefore break the requirements of the overlay. He argued that it’s not a gas station but rather, a convenience store with a few pumps.
“People were describing a gas station as lowbrow... It’s not lowbrow. It’s an amenity,” he said.
According to both Primavera and Ruben, the response wasn’t all negative. Some residents liked the idea of a Wawa and pumps, while others supported the idea of a Wawa but requested that the pumps be removed, said Primavera.
Ruben said a large majority of attendees at the meeting last week did not support the proposal.
Even if the gas pumps get the go-ahead from neighbors, zoning laws prohibit gas stations on that plot, and the owners will have to get a variance on gas pumps from the city, Primavera said.
So now it’s back to the drawing board for US Realty, and Primavera said they’re going to try to address some residents’ concerns about the use of space before they come back for another community meeting. For now, they’re still in the early stages of planning and they haven’t filed anything with the city.
Ruben said he doesn’t expect the group to come up with a new proposal that community members will support because Wawa will require some gas pumps at the area. As long as the gas pumps are still part of the plan, Ruben he doesn’t see a way for the group to garner support.