Back in September, we gave you an update on the progress of the new OCF Cafe at 2100 Fairmount Ave., across the street from the Eastern State Penitentiary. At the time, we indicated an expected opening date of mid-October, in time to take advantage of the crowds that descend upon the old prison for Terror Behind the Walls. If you live in the neighborhood, you’ve surely noticed that two months later, the shop has still not opened its doors to the public. We can explain.

Looking at the property today, and comparing it to a few months ago, you can see that OCF has made some fairly significant alterations (and dare we say, improvements) to the facade. Gone are the little vinyl windows, replaced by floor to ceiling plate glass windows, clad in aluminum casings and two garage doors. As you might suspect, these windows and garage doors are not compatible with the historic look of the building, but unfortunately, when the windows were first ordered, OCF only had this “historic” image to work off of:

In the 1970s

A couple of weeks after the new windows were ordered, an older photo emerged that showed what may or may not have been the original facade of the building. Restoring the building to that original state, however, would be impractical at best and cost prohibitive in any case. Near neighbors, members of the Spring Garden Civic Association, and the Architectural Review Committee of the Historical Commission felt otherwise.

It’s true, OCF did not follow proper protocol with the Historical Commission and certainly exceeded preliminary permits that were issued for the exterior. But we would contend that it was only thought a combination of calls of complaint from near neighbors and representatives of the Spring Garden Civic Association, and pressure from other parties in City Hall that the project was stopped in its tracks for about a month. Today, OCF finally goes before the Historical Commission to attempt to get approvals for the changes to the facade.

Additionally, members of the Spring Garden Civic and near neighbors have not exactly been welcoming or friendly to this new business. When Mugshots opened at this location in 2004, the owners of that business entered into a series of onerous agreements with the SGCA that included limited hours, limited seating, and no cooking on the premises. SGCA has insisted that these agreements remain intact for the new tenants, and a neighbor has been kind enough to appeal the over-the-counter use permit that OCF received for a sit down and take out restaurant in the space. That hearing will be taking place in January.

With the outcome of today’s Historical Commission meeting, it’s looking as though the cafe will be open before the end of the year. Hopefully, once the restaurant opens its doors the neighbors will realize that it’s not all that bad to have a new business in a beautiful new space around the corner, and some may even apologize for constantly calling 911 over the past few months to interfere with the ongoing construction of this establishment. Seriously, can’t we all just get along?

Full disclosure: OCF Realty is the parent company of OCF Cafe and Naked Philly