Planned Millbrook hotel on hold for now

A project to build a 138-room extended stay motel on Woodhaven Road cannot move forward without design presentation, L&I ruled last week.

Tenth District Councilman Brian O’Neill said he was pleased that a hotel project in Millbrook will go through the Civic Design Review process. TIMES FILE PHOTO

A controversial project to build a four-story, 138-room extended-stay hotel on Woodhaven Road near Knights Road has been put on hold, for now.

On Friday, the city Department of Licenses and Inspections decided the developer of the hotel would have to present its plan at a public meeting before moving forward.

Last month, L&I issued a permit to Posh Properties, of Bethlehem, to build a hotel on a parcel of land at 4000 Woodhaven Road wedged between the Knights Road Shopping Center and the Philadelphia Building Trades Council building.

Tenth District Councilman Brian O’Neill appealed the decision, saying the project should have triggered the Civic Design Review process.

Projects over 50,000 square feet that affect an adjacent residential area are required to go in front of the CDR committee, which holds public hearings and makes design recommendations. It is an advisory board and its suggestions are not binding.

L&I has reissued a “conditional zoning permit” for the project, according to department spokeswoman Karen Guss. She said L&I offers those permits to applicants who have to appear in front of CDR but meet all other requirements.

Posh Properties declined to comment for this article.

The project was discussed last fall at a Millbrook Civic Association meeting. At the time, Posh Properties was proposing to build a 60-foot-tall standalone hotel. It needed a variance due to the height of the building.

Posh Properties revised its plan and is now proposing a 38-foot building, which means it can build the hotel “by right.”

Residents roundly opposed the plan at the community meeting, according to O’Neill and Millbrook Civic President John Kradzinski.

“It’s a low-rate hotel in a shopping center that just didn’t fit into the neighborhood,” Kradzinski said. “According to everybody in the neighborhood, it just didn’t fit in. There’s really no need for that in a shopping center right there.”

Among the top concerns cited by Kradzinski and O’Neill were the room rates the would-be operator of the hotel plans to charge its customers.

WoodSpring Suites has been presented as the operator of the planned hotel. O’Neill said the developer said at the civic association meeting said that rooms would go for $60 a night, and renderings included in zoning permit documents show a sign advertising rooms starting at $279 a week.

Choice Hotels, parent company of WoodSpring, could not be reached for comment.

WoodSpring’s website says that the chain caters to business travelers, students and military members. Its closest location is in Cherry Hill, where rooms sleeping up to two people were available online for $71 a night on a recent Friday evening.

The developer’s plans call for the creation of 94 parking spots for the hotel, bringing the total number of spots to 523 on the site, which includes the shopping center lot.

O’Neill told the Northeast Times that he is happy that L&I decided the project needed to go in front of the CDR committee. He said his goal in appealing the permit was to make sure the developer’s plans were out in the open before construction begins.

“The community has already had a victory in that he’s not going to the zoning board for 60-some feet,” he said, referring to Posh Properties’ decision not to pursue a variance after the civic meeting.

“This is a chance to slow down the process, and hopefully have them listen — if they want to be a good neighbor — to what the neighbors would like to see, recognizing that he has the right to build the hotel,” O’Neill added.

CDR does not have the power to stop the project, but O’Neill said the meeting will give residents the opportunity to weigh in on aspects like lighting, parking and other design features.

It’s not clear when or if Posh Properties will take the opportunity to present to the CDR committee. The body meets once a month at 1515 Arch St. ••