Fishtown

Will have to come to community first

It might be awhile before developers have a chance to appear before the Fishtown Neighbors Association zoning committee for their proposal to transform a large corner vacant parcel at 623 E Girard Ave. into a new mixed-use building.

Developers from Ascender Investments failed to appear for a scheduled appearance with the FNA earlier this month, and have not yet filed an appeal with the ZBA, according to FNA zoning chair Matt Karp. The property sits at the edge of Fishtown, about a block from where Girard Avenue melts into I-95. We're pretty sure they're the same folks who built the seven homes on Flora Street in recent years- you can see the backs of those homes in the photos of the site.

The site, new homes behind it
From the other direction

“We spent a lot of time flyering and advertising for them not to show up to their community meeting,” Karp said.

Across from future apartments

As Fishtown has continued to redevelop, we've seen a good mix of larger projects and one-off projects, sometimes even on the same block. On the 2100 block of Norris Street alone, we've seen the ten-home Norris Point project and an additional six homes get started a little closer to Frankford Avenue. On the other side of Frankford but technically on the same block, we recently came upon a one-off mixed-use building under construction at 2186 E. Norris St., replacing a vacant lot.

In the past
Framing underway

According to the permits, this property will have commercial on the first floor and residential above. It's encouraging that the developers would opt for a commercial use at this location. With Frankford Avenue just steps away, perhaps there's a belief that the good vibes from the corridor can spill over onto Norris Street, adding a slightly hidden retail amenity for the neighborhood. It's actually pretty consistent with the fact that the folks building this thing are the same ones who own the building across the street which is on its way to renovation.

And five homes will rise in its place

Earlier this month, developers from Greenpoint Developers, an offshoot of Tower Investments, presented plans to the Fishtown Neighbors Association to demolish a church at 1401-09 Marlborough St. and construct six homes with off-street parking in its place. The community was not impressed.

Church plus zoning notices

Neighbors interpreted the project as an attempt to squeeze a sixth house onto a too-small parcel, which led to a vote of five in support and thirty-one opposed at an FNA zoning meeting. Before anything can be built here, the former Pilgrim Congressional United Church of Christ, which we wrote about over the summer when it had just gone under contract, will have to be demolished. According to Matt Karp, FNA zoning chair, after the presentation, members of the community talked and were able to pinpoint one decisive issue with the project that concerned them; the sixth house. Designed by Paul Drzal, the project proposed five single-family homes facing Marlborough Street with an awkwardly squeezed-in sixth house accessed on Belgrade Street, but pretty much facing the backs of the five homes on Marlborough Street.

Wish more rehabs would do this

In Fishtown, we've seen all kind of development activity over the years. Vacant lots have sprouted new homes. Developers have demolished old homes or warehouses in favor of new construction. And there's no shortage of rehabs either. At 2204 E. York St., we have the combination of a rehab and new construction.

In the past
Recent shot

As you can see, the old building is gone and a new facade has been framed out. Interestingly, the developers are opting to preserve the existing cornice even though the rest of the old front is gone. We've actually seen this a couple of times before, notably on a Carpenter Street project in the Graduate Hospital neighborhood. Wouldn't it be nice if more developers did something like this?

Change is coming to former pizza place

Last week, after a tasty lunch at Steap and Grind, we noticed that the appropriately named "Pizza Shop" at 1451 E. Columbia Ave. had closed and the building was available for sale. We got a slice there once upon a time and were sad to see the business gone, but considering the alarming number of pizza places in the neighborhood we wouldn't call it a huge loss. As is always the case, we started wondering about the future for this property.

Former pizza place
Steap and Grind and Frankford Ave. nearby

We found the listing for the property from Michael Salove Company, and a price of $175K (down considerably from the original asking price). But the property is already under agreement, scheduled to close next week according to agent Jacob Cooper. The new owners intend to fix up the property and lease it to a food service operator, but we don't know the concept just yet. Considering the little niche Steap and Grind has been able to carve out next to the park, it will be nice to have another new option nearby.

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