In Fishtown, a year's worth of inattentive ownership has come back to hurt developers who planned to take the former East Baptist Church at 1236 E. Columbia Ave. and reuse it by turning the building into 15 apartments.

The church

At an October Fishtown Neighbors Association meeting, neighbors voted a resounding 65-11 not in favor of a project from Metal Green Inc., largely for two reasons, according to Matt Karp, FNA zoning chair. First, density. Neighbors felt 15 units seemed like a lot. That it was for apartments as opposed to condos also made the proposal less attractive to people in the community. When considered within the context that this immediate area has numerous projects already creating new units in the past few years, like all three phases of Ice House, Awesome Town, and a 13-unit project in the works, neighbors were less enthused by the idea of even more density. Then there's the condition of the former church property since it was purchased last October for $385K, a far cry from a $1.4M listing price in 2008. That purchase came after neighbors tried for a few years, finally succeeding, to push the property to a sheriff's sale.

“It came out at the meeting that he's owned it for the last year and people were pretty upset about that,” Karp said.

That's because there have been several community clean-ups at the site during that time, and the owner has let the property sit with trash, snow, and windows falling into neighbors' yards, showing a careless management. So when neighbors learned the same owner would be in charge of maintaining the 15 apartments, they were unimpressed.  For now the fate of this church is up in the air, as Karp said he has not yet heard back from developers about scheduling another zoning presentation for the community, and it was continued at the ZBA last month. We still hope there's a chance for a reuse here at this site, so we'll keep watching. Only a few blocks from Frankford Avenue, this site's in a prime location. With that in mind, something is sure to happen here eventually.