Jack O’Hara and Chris Bordelon have been seeking information about the 138-acre property since it had been purchased by Commercial Development Corp. back in March 2018.
Twenty months later, they’re still looking for the same information. It’s time to take more direct action about the project, they invoked at the Bustleton-Somerton joint civic league meeting on Oct. 16.
The meeting held at American Heritage Federal Credit Union didn’t have as large of a turnout as O’Hara hoped for, most likely due to the heavy downpour. It ended with rumblings of creating a petition for the buyers of the property at 1 Red Lion Road and elected officials to see. City Councilman at large Al Taubenberger was present as well as representatives from Councilman Brian O’Neill and Sen. John Sabatina’s offices.
Since the announcement that CDC bought the land from Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. for $18 million, neighbors have been concerned about the sheer scope of the 1.85 million square feet project and the impact it can have on the neighborhood and traffic.
O’Hara said he had received confirmation that a tenant for the property was secured, though they were not at liberty to announce the name. In September, the Inquirer published an article stating UPS was among the companies considering the property.
“They basically raised their hand and said they are the ones, they are seriously considering it,” O’Hara said, though the tenant remains unofficial. O’Hara did confirm the site would be in operation 24/7.
It was Judy Moore, O’Neill’s opponent in the 10th Councilmanic District race, who stepped up after the meeting with an action plan. Moore’s office volunteered to pay for an ad in the Northeast Times as well as a billboard to raise awareness about the warehouse.
“When we start using green community space and replacing them with massive warehouses and storage units, it takes away from the neighborhood and doesn’t provide any kind of usability for the neighbors,” Moore told the Times.
Moore said as a City Council member she would create an advisory board so the community can be proactive on locations such as this and the old Nabisco bakery at Roosevelt Boulevard and Byberry Road.
O’Hara, president of the Greater Bustleton Civic League, and Bordelon, president of the Somerton Civic Association, have become warehouses of information about the warehouse in their research. CDC’s site plan includes three modern industrial buildings totaling up to 1.85 million square feet in size, they shared at a previous informational meeting, with a total of 350 truck bays and 704 parking spaces on the site. For perspective, the former Budd Co. plant totaled 1.1 million square feet, and Lincoln Financial Field is 1.7 million square feet.
“This is going to be a monster building,” O’Hara said. “I cannot fathom how this will work.”
CDC is working on a finalized plan it hopes to release by the end of the year, said Stephen Collins, executive vice president at CDC. Once that plan is released, Collins said neighborhood feedback “will be relevant.”
“I’m sure [neighbors] will have the opportunity to weigh in on the design, but I can’t make a blanket statement when we don’t know what the comments will be yet,” he told the Times.
Collins said finalizing the design and building the warehouse will most likely take years. He also said the plan has considered the impact it could cause on traffic for the surrounding residential neighborhood.
There was plenty of finger-pointing from neighbors at the meeting, including at O’Neill, who previously told the Times he had no knowledge of the project and he could not support or oppose the project as long as it abided by its industrial zoning code. Collins backed his statement.
“We have not formally submitted a final design to the city, and therefore there are no official plans to be commented on,” Collins said.
O’Hara and Bordelon said they will host another meeting in the future to continue the conversation.