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Ridge Flats, By Onion Flats, Sets the Mark for Sustainable Development in the Philadelphia Area

Jennifer Budd
Lane F. Kelman
Cohen Seglias Pallas Greenhall & Furman PC - Philadelphia Office

August 28, 2013

Previously published on August 23, 2013

Two weeks ago, the East Falls Pennsylvania Zoning Board approved the construction of Ridge Flats at 4300 Ridge Avenue in East Falls-a project proposed by developer and design-builder Onion Flats.

The Project

The five story building will provide 146 residential units and 9,300 square feet of retail space. More importantly, Ridge Flats will be Philadelphia’s first - and the country’s largest - certified “passive house.” A passive house produces a “net-zero” energy impact by producing as much energy as it uses for heating, cooling, lighting and hot water (which, at Ridge Flats, will be generated on-site). The “net-zero” impact is accomplished by solar paneling on the roof and the construction of a highly insulated, air-tight building envelope so that the indoor spaces are easier to keep cool or warm. The power generated by the building will be sold to a utility company, and the savings will be passed to the residents.

The Vision

Howard Steinberg, AIA, LEED AP, a principal of Onion Flats, explained the purpose and importance of Ridge Flats:

Ridge Flats strives to be the largest Passive House certified and net zero energy possible project in the country. Our mission at Onion Flats is to continue to prove that well designed, high performance building development is a viable alternative that provides healthy and sustainable environments for our residents. Equally important for us is to create projects that inspire the City’s politicians and development community with the hope that similar developments eventually become the rule rather than the exception, as envisioned in the Greenworks Philadelphia plan.

The building will also include many other energy saving elements such as a public art installation that incorporates and addresses the residents’ energy usage. The building will also feature a garden landscape on the second floor to create “new ground.” Proper storm water management will be achieved through a 100% pervious site, and much of the construction will be built through the use of sustainable and locally sourced materials.

In addition to the various “green” elements of the building, it also seeks to compliment and improve the East Falls community. For example, the building design will encourage community among residents as it features viewing platforms and outdoor access to the residential units instead of interior hallways. Ridge Flats will act as a buffer between the heavily traveled Kelly Drive and the pedestrian and bike friendly trails of Fairmount Park.

Recently, the Zoning Board approved several variances sought by Onion Flats, including less parking. Under the current zoning laws, the project would have required 695 parking spaces due to the retail space planned. Since the retail space will be geared towards pedestrians and the local community, all involved agreed that this much parking was not needed. Additionally, all residents will have indoor bicycle storage and parking spaces for a car share program will be provided on premises.

Looking Ahead

Construction will begin in late 2013 or early 2014 and is anticipated to last about 12-14 months. Ridge Flats is an ambitious and exciting project for Onion Flats and the City, and everyone is pulling for it.


The views expressed in this document are solely the views of the author and not Martindale-Hubbell. This document is intended for informational purposes only and is not legal advice or a substitute for consultation with a licensed legal professional in a particular case or circumstance.

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Cohen Seglias Pallas Greenhall & Furman PC
Philadelphia Office
Philadelphia Office
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Construction Law
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