Developer withdraws application for Bell’s Corner hotel

A developer declined to go forward with a hotel project after Rhawnhurst and Bell’s Corner residents flooded a zoning hearing.

Tenth District Councilman Brian O’Neill addresses the Rhawnhurst Civic Association July 18 before a presentation about a proposed hotel on Bustleton Avenue and Tustin Street. TIMES FILE PHOTO

A developer looking to build a hotel in Bell’s Corner withdrew his zoning application last Wednesday after residents opposed to the proposal flooded a Center City hearing.

Attorney Blair Kalish Adler, who represented the developer, asked the Zoning Board of Adjustment to delay the hearing so her client could revisit his plans for the hotel at 8430 Bustleton Ave. (at Tustin Street).

Former Councilman Frank DiCicco, who chairs the ZBA, said he didn’t want to reschedule the hearing and send dozens of neighbors home without considering the case. 

Minutes later, Adler told the ZBA the developer would be abandoning the application, which led to an eruption of cheers in a room packed with residents of Bell’s Corner and Rhawnhurst.

“This turnout is phenomenal,” 10th District Councilman Brian O’Neill said after the hearing. “If this crowd doesn’t come down like this, this doesn’t happen.”

State Sen. John Sabatina Jr., a Rhawnhurst native who also attended the hearing, called the hotel plan “a bad idea in a bad location.” He also praised the community participation.

“Things like this bring the community together,” he said.

It’s not clear what the property’s owner, 8430 Bustleton LLC, which acquired the property in 2018 for $300,000, plans to do moving forward.

Neither Adler nor the developer, who was identified at the July 18 Rhawnhurst Civic Association meeting as Tony Zhang, of Castor Gardens-based Premier Realty Group, could be reached for comment in the days following the meeting.

The plan presented to residents at the July community meeting was for a five-story, 49-room hotel on a vacant lot across the street from the now-shuttered Jack’s Deli. 

Residents at the Rhawnhurst Civic Association meeting voted 157 to 1 to oppose the project.

Sabatina, echoing a familiar concern from neighbors, said he worried the hotel could become like the Roosevelt Inn or Hub Motel — two hotels that have led to drugs and prostitution in the area, he said.

“We certainly don’t need another one in the neighborhood,” he said.

Sabatina’s father, attorney and Democratic ward leader John Sabatina Sr., represented the Rhawnhurst Civic Association at the ZBA hearing. 

Though they withdrew the application, the developer can return with a revised plan, though anything other than a residential project would likely trigger another community meeting and zoning hearing.

O’Neill said his office will monitor the situation at 8430 Bustleton Ave. He also said he was going to follow through on a promise to reimburse people who carpooled to the meeting for their travel expenses. ••