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Last week's meeting of the Spruce Hill Zoning Committee, which discussed plans for an 11-story extended-stay hotel at 40th and Pine streets, seems to have created only a greater divide between developers and the community on an already divisive issue.

Nearby residents expressed strong disapproval of the hotel at the meeting, while developers heaped praises on the design.

Developer Tom Lussenhop said the meeting provided a forum for debate that could influence the course of the project.

"I think there are ways that we can improve the project, based on the variety of questions and concerns that we heard," he said. Lussenhop did not mention specific ways he believed the project could be enhanced.

The height of the hotel - a major point of contention among community members - is not something that is likely to change because it is "driven by a pretty fixed formula by room count and operating efficiency," Lussenhop said.

The developer coalition made up of Lussenhop, Campus Apartments and Hersha Hospitality is waiting for a hearing with the Philadelphia Zoning Board of Adjustment to get a zoning variance that would allow them to lease the site from the University and build the hotel.

But area residents say the hotel will have a largely negative impact on the community.

Magali Larson, a member of the Woodland Terrace Association, said she worries about the project because "there are so many risks involved that they have dubious solutions for."

Among the risks, Larson said, are plans for a valet parking system to handle guest's cars, the possibility of a live-entertainment license for the restaurant that will accompany the hotel and the height of the building in what she considers a residential neighborhood.

A lawyer for the Woodland Terrace Association is in discussions with Campus Inn's lawyer and will represent the association at the ZBA meeting.

In contrast to Larson's complaints, Patrick Starr of the Delaware Valley Smart Growth Alliance lauded the project for its "adaptive reuse of a historic site." Starr also commended the site for the restaurant it will bring to 40th street and for its location near a major transit station.

Dan DeRitis, a local landlord who owns 13 properties on the block of the hotel site, including four that would fall under the hotel's shadow during certain seasons, said he approves of the project because he thinks the mansion's restoration and the increased foot traffic on the block would be beneficial.

Although DeRitis acknowledged that there would be temporary hardships for renters on the block, many of whom are students, he said he thinks they are worth the potential gains.

"The short-term loss is the long-term gain for the whole block and the whole neighborhood," he said.

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