What was to have been a double-barreled Toll Brothers condominium development on the site of the Society Hill Playhouse and a garage across 8th Street from it in Washington Square West is going to be rental apartments instead. Along with that change comes the disappearance not only of the 19th-century playhouse and the garage but of all the parking on the site as well.
If the residents of Lombard Mews, Rodman Street and Bradford Alley in the vicinity of the Society Hill Playhouse find themselves complaining that it’s even harder to find a place to park a year or two from now, they will have no one but themselves to blame, for their opposition to Toll’s project led the company to replace it with one that can be built by right. As a result, the first-floor garages planned in both buildings were removed to bring the new structures under the block’s height limit, which stand at 38 feet.
“We had met with the neighbors in Lombard Mews and on Bradford Alley, and with the WSWCA Zoning Committee,” said Shawn Frawley, senior project manager at Toll Brothers’ City Living division, which owns the two parcels.
What Toll Brothers had wanted to build on these lots were luxury condominiums: 24 on the site of the garage and 22 on the site of the Society Hill Playhouse and the parking lot to its south. Both structures would have had indoor garage parking.
But it seems that the neighbors had issues with the height of the resulting buildings. “We were having some decent conversations until some neighbors said, ‘Whatever you do, we’ll oppose it,'” said Frawley. In addition, “the Civic Association said it wouldn’t approve anything without the approval of the neighbors,” Frawley said.
Judith Appelbaum, chair of the Washington Square West Civic Association‘s governmental affairs committee, presided over the meeting where Toll made an informational presentation to neighborhood residents. (Zoning Committee Chair Jon Broh works for project architect JKRP Architects and thus recused himself.) “Toll Brothers never came to the RCO with a formal proposal for the project,” she said. “We had informational meetings where the project was presented to the Zoning Committee and neighbors for discussion. We gave them feedback and indicated that we were willing to continue talking with them.
“Toll also had several groups of meetings with neighbors to negotiate details of the project, and at some point, the negotiations broke down. At some point, they came to the conclusion that they were never going to get anywhere with the neighbors. So Toll ended the discussions and decided to do the by-right project, and once you go by right, the RCO isn’t involved.”