As we were scanning the ZBA calendar for this week, a project at 4001-07 Ridge Ave. caught our eye. The property, which sits between East Falls and Allegheny West, is pretty large, with over 11K sqft of space, and the vast majority of the property has been sitting as vacant land for well over a decade. The northernmost section of the property, 4007 Ridge Ave. is also vacant land, but that hasn’t been the case for terribly long. There was a building here, at the corner of Ridge Avenue and Scotts Lane, which was home to the popular Catfish Cafe back in the 1980s into the early 1990s. The building had been home to several other restaurants over its lifetime, and according to East Falls Local, a new restaurant was planned for the building’s retail space as recently as 2015
That idea fell to the wayside somewhere along the line, and the building and the lots next door sold to developers last summer. Soon after, those developers set the wheels in motion to demolish the former Catfish Cafe, with an eye toward developing the entire property with one new building. The plan for the parcel is fairly exciting given the location, calling for a four-story building with 27 apartments, ground-floor retail, and basement parking. As we said, the project was scheduled to go to the ZBA this week, but it was continued to a later date. We don’t know whether the continuance was due to a circumstance with the developer, or whether it came at the behest of a community group hoping for changes to the project.
Without knowing the ins and outs of the neighborhood politics in this part of town, this seems like an intuitive project for a property that’s been ridiculously underused for a long time. It certainly would have been ideal for the developers to maintain the building that formerly housed the Catfish Cafe, as it had some nice looking bones and would have offered some architectural diversity next to a contemporary building. But we can also appreciate the thought process behind building the largest new building possible, maximizing layout efficiencies for the residential units and creating the largest possible commercial space and underground parking lot. Can anyone that lives nearby and perhaps attended a community meeting give us a sense of how the neighbors responded to this project? Assuming it does eventually get built, should we start looking more closely for development carrying over from East Falls into Allegheny West?