New Building Would be Big Improvement Over Beer City Shopping Center

As Fishtown has transformed over the last decade or so, Frankford Avenue tends to get the lion’s share of the attention, as it’s the neighborhood’s primary commercial corridor. East Girard Avenue sometimes gets the short end of the stick in terms of coverage, and we can think of a few possible reasons. First, Frankford runs through the heart of the neighborhood while Girard runs along the perimeter, and that certainly matters. Also, Girard is quite wide as Philly city streets go, making it much less pedestrian friendly than two-lane Frankford Avenue. Finally, we believe that Frankford Avenue was in much worse shape until about a decade ago, littered with vacant lots, industrial buildings, and well, litter. Girard wasn’t anything to write home about, but it was a generally functioning commercial corridor and hasn’t had to make as much of a climb in recent years.

That being said, Girard still has its share of large, underused vacant lots which have been redeveloped during this cycle, and today we can share news about yet another property that should soon make an overdue transition. 701 E. Girard Ave. is currently a commercial shopping center and is home to a Dunkin’ Donuts, a cleaners, and a beer shop. It’s also got a terrific surface parking lot out front, which adds convenience for shoppers and makes things even less walkable on a street that we’ve already noted isn’t awesome for pedestrians.

Current view
Looking toward I-95 on Girard

This shopping center, which has been operating since at least the early 1990s, once made all the sense in the world at this location. Not so much in 2021. We’ve seen time and again that East Girard can support mixed-use buildings, and that’s obviously a higher and better use at this address, compared to the present situation. So allow us to present a proposed redevelopment for the site, originating from an affiliate of OCF Realty, and with design work from JKRP Architects.

Project rendering
The sun sets over this theoretical building
View on Berks
View on Berks, looking toward Girard
Landscaped space for the tenants

This building will include 53 units over four stories, a retail space on Girard that’s over 7,500 sqft in size, and a landscaped green space in the back for tenants of the building. Because the property is zoned CMX-2, the project will require a variance for height and density, so it will be coming to Fishtown Neighbors Association later this month before going to Civic Design Review and eventually, the ZBA. Even though we say this with a hint of bias, we believe this is a great step for this parcel!

Questions about a zoning variance will keep this project from being a guarantee. We’ve said for years that East Girard and Frankford Avenue should be remapped to CMX-2.5, and frankly the argument for remapping is stronger on Girard due to its width. Not only because the developer is the parent company of this website, we hope the project is met with support, since it makes so much sense and would represent such an improvement over the status quo. Then again, this is Fishtown, so figure parking is going to be brought up at the community meeting once or twice.

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