A little more than three years ago, we told you about a significant proposal at 1405 Frankford Ave. which called for the construction of a new mixed-use building with 30 apartments. The developers could have built a 32-unit building with no parking, but instead proposed a little less density and 16 parking spots, thus necessitating a zoning variance. Despite the reasonable nature of the variance request (people generally appreciate the addition of parking when none is required), the project only narrowly received support at a strongly attended community meeting. Ultimately, it got approved at the ZBA and looked to be progressing nicely when we checked in last year. Now, the building is done and most of the residential units are occupied, but it’s an open question what will happen in one of the commercial spaces since the ZBA ruled against Starbucks opening there over the summer.
Some of the initial ire directed toward the project stemmed from the fact that it was getting built over a portion of the Fishtown Rose Garden, a longstanding community green space. It wasn’t so long ago that Frankford Avenue “boasted” numerous large green spaces which were organized and maintained to various degrees. Needless to say, many of those open spaces have disappeared of late, as the corridor has thrived and numerous buildings have appeared up and down Frankford. The Rose Garden had a somewhat unique situation, as part of the property was in private hands and the rest was owned by New Kensington CDC. So the new building subsumed the privately owned part of the garden, but the NKCDC space has remained open and in decent condition, especially considering the construction site next door.
Fishtown Neighbors Association, the local community group, has stepped into the void and is now working to rehabilitate what’s left of the Rose Garden. As a first step, FNA bought the property from NKCDC, and they’re now raising funds to restore what will be a pocket park, moving forward. This effort will include various improvements to the park, including steel planters with built-in wood benches, new plants which will be mixed in with the rose bushes, new pavers (with sponsor names) in a herringbone pattern on the ground, a new source of water, and general pruning and maintenance. They’ve organized a giving grid, and are looking to raise $65K.
Work will be starting on the park this fall, with the expectation to complete the park and officially introduce it to the public in the spring. Kudos to FNA for taking the lemons of a reduced community park and making lemonade by refashioning what’s left into a new and reimagined space. We’ll be excited to see the refurbished park next year.