Eastwick UPDATE: Councilman pulls support from rezoning bill, Korman project won't move forward

Councilman Kenaytta Johnson talks at last night's meeting | photo by Ned Connelly © Copyright 2012 A couple months ago I wrote about the development project Korman Residential had proposed for the Eastwick neighborhood in southwestern Philadelphia. Since the story was published, Eastwick residents have continued to fight against Korman, asking their councilman, Kenyatta Johnson, to pull his support from the project.

And, finally, it seems the Councilman has heard them. Last night, at a public community meeting, the Councilman announced he will be withdrawing the bill to rezone the 35 acres from single family homes to multi-family. This action effectively kills Korman’s plans for redevelopment. Without rezoning the area, Korman is unable to build their proposed 51-buliding complex with 722 rental apartments.

“You should’ve been at the table foremost,” said the Councilman, whose announcement was met with a standing ovation. “Those who live in the community have the most powerful authority at the end of the day.”

The Councilman was quite humble in his delivery, admitting that he initially supported the development without listening to the community, allowing Korman to believe he “was going to rubber stamp the project.” The economic benefits the Councilman had spoken about so confidently before weren’t mentioned. Instead, he referenced his renewed dedication to “righting some of the wrongs” that the community has endured by working directly with residents and the Eastwick Friends & Neighbors Coalition. (For a more complete historical background, check out the film A Field of Weeds.)

While withdrawing the bill is great news for the community, many issues remain. There are still major concerns about flooding, which until now have largely been unaddressed by the City. The Philadelphia Water Department was in attendance last night, and Joanne Dahme, general manager of public affairs, spoke about the work being done to understand the flooding problems and create a long-term solution with the Army Corps of Engineers for the community.

Also, George Pepper Middle School, where last night’s meeting was held, is slated to be closed; the community would like to keep it open as a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) school and work with the nearby John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge.

And, lastly, with the 35-acre development plan falling through, it’s unclear if Korman will still grant the City the remaining 93 acres for airport expansion. Korman has yet to be reached for comment.

Read the full October 2012 cover story Riches of Eastwick, here