The Philadelphia Zoning Board of Adjustment has approved the proposed development of a five-story, net-zero energy building at the intersection of Midvale and Ridge avenues in East Falls.

The Ridge Flats project, designed by Philadelphia-based developer Onion Flats, will feature over 140 apartments, commercial space and a public garden. The Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority (PRA) first selected Onion Flats to develop the city-owned Rivage site in December 2011.

The developers sought the approval of several zoning variances: they wanted to build ten feet higher than the allowed 55-ft., and overlook a peculiarity in the area's zoning ordinances that would require them to provide 695 parking spots for the building.

Parking was the hot topic at Wednesday's hearing, as it was during the latest East Falls Community Council (EFCC) Zoning Committee meetings.

The development will provide 120 indoor parking spots to be used by Ridge Flats residents, as well as 11 on-street parking spaces.

David Orphanides, the attorney representing Onion Flats, pointed out that Ridge Flats was accessible by public transit, and the developers were providing bicycle parking.

"We feel that between all of those things," he said, the developers "at least satisfied" the need for parking.

Timothy McDonald, one of the founders of Onion Flats added that the ground floor of Ridge Flats would be occupied by mainly local business, and he envisioned many local patrons would choose to walk rather than drive there.

Barnaby Wittels, president of the East Falls Community Council, and Gina Snyder, executive director of the East Falls Development Corporation both spoke in favor of the project, as did a representative of Fourth District Councilman Curtis Jones' office.

"[Onion Flats] has earned our trust and earned our support," Wittels said. Though the Community Council still has concerns, he said, "the fact of the matter is we'll continue to talk to each other."

The Onion Flats developers hope to begin construction on the project in late 2013 or early 2014 and the process is expected to take 12 to 18 months.