With City Council OK, Richmond Street venue moves forward

De­veloper Dav­id Grasso re­ceived the needed zon­ing changes for a 3,000-per­son ven­ue on Rich­mond Street in Fishtown, leav­ing neigh­bors with little say in is­sues such as park­ing and se­cur­ity.

De­veloper Dav­id Grasso has traveled a long road in his at­tempt to bring what he calls a “world-class mu­sic ven­ue” to the Delaware River wa­ter­front, but his dream is close to com­ing true.

On June 16, City Coun­cil ap­proved a bill that will al­low Grasso to con­vert a ware­house at Rich­mond Street and Gir­ard Av­en­ue in­to a 34,000-square-foot, 3,000-pat­ron ven­ue.

With those zon­ing changes now in place, the de­veloper is be­gin­ning talks with com­munity lead­ers — who op­posed the ven­ue’s loc­a­tion — to cre­ate a Com­munity Be­ne­fits Agree­ment to al­le­vi­ate some con­cerns about the pro­ject.

Asked about the pro­ject, Grasso, in an e-mailed reply, said that at the dir­ec­tion of City Coun­cil­man Frank Di­Cicco (D-1st dist.), he reached out to “com­munity lead­ers from sev­er­al groups as well as cer­tain oth­er in­ter­ested parties from the city and the coun­cil­men’s of­fices” to share their con­cerns over the pro­ject.

Rep­res­ent­at­ives from the Fishtown Neigh­bors As­so­ci­ation, Fishtown Ac­tion, the Old Rich­mond Civic As­so­ci­ation and the New Kens­ing­ton Com­munity De­vel­op­ment Corp. were in­cluded in this group.

An ini­tial meet­ing was planned for Thursday, June 29, but that was pushed back un­til the second week of Ju­ly.

As for what to ex­pect at that meet­ing, Neil Brech­er, pres­id­ent of the FNA, said he was skep­tic­al about just what might come out of meet­ings in­ten­ded to cre­ate a CBA.

Be­cause Grasso already has the needed zon­ing changes, neigh­bor­hood groups will bring little lever­age to the table when it comes to de­mand­ing things such as light­ing, trash re­mov­al and se­cur­ity. 

“I can say that the po­s­i­tion of the neigh­bor­hood groups has not changed,” he said.

That po­s­i­tion was made crys­tal clear when Grasso ap­peared be­fore a June 7 hear­ing of the City Coun­cil’s Rules Com­mit­tee.

This hear­ing al­lowed res­id­ents to testi­fy be­fore the com­mit­tee about con­cerns over the pro­posed club. The de­veloper needed to change the zon­ing des­ig­na­tion of the area bounded by Rich­mond Street, Cum­ber­land Street, Beach Street and Schirra Drive to al­low for nightclubs. Coun­cil ap­proved his re­quest, mak­ing the area a C-3 com­mer­cial dis­trict and re­mov­ing a pro­hib­i­tion on nightclubs from a Delaware Av­en­ue zon­ing over­lay that Coun­cil­man Di­Cicco cre­ated to com­bat nuis­ance prop­er­ties in that area.

While Grasso con­tends to have ad­equate park­ing, with enough for at least 640 vehicles, he said at that hear­ing — he also noted that he ex­pects pat­rons to util­ize pub­lic trans­port­a­tion — res­id­ents ex­pressed con­cerns over the pos­sib­il­ity of pat­ron vehicles tak­ing up space in the com­munity.

Dur­ing that hear­ing, Capt. Mike Cram of the 26th Po­lice Dis­trict had con­cerns of his own, say­ing the in­com­ing pat­rons could but a bur­den on his of­ficers.

Brech­er noted these is­sues and said that at this time, he wouldn’t even want to spec­u­late on what con­ces­sions would be made needed for a be­ne­fits agree­ment.

In fact, he jok­ingly said the only thing that might ease his mind would be the cre­ation of a 1,500-car un­der­ground gar­age on the site.

But that would be “im­possible,” he ad­mit­ted.

“We are not sure, at this time, what might even come out of a CBA,” he said. “I couldn’t tell you now what would even be pos­sible.”

Brech­er said he wasn’t sur­prised that City Coun­cil ap­proved the pro­ject, be­cause the ini­tial present­a­tion, held in a joint com­munity meet­ing last year, saw res­id­ents op­pose the pro­ject by about 60 to 40.

“It was a pretty close vote,” Brech­er of the 20-vote mar­gin.

He men­tioned he hopes to dis­cuss an­oth­er is­sue that in an up­com­ing meet­ing to cre­ate a CBA — as writ­ten, the Grasso bill changes zon­ing not just at 2055 Rich­mond St., but on two oth­er prop­er­ties as well.

Grasso owns two prop­er­ties on Rich­mond Street, but the two oth­er prop­er­ties, which are cur­rently op­er­at­ing busi­nesses, could be nightclubs in the fu­ture by right.

The first meet­ing of the group will be held in two weeks.

“Right now, it’s a wait and see,” said Brech­er.

Grasso said he in­tends to meet with the com­munity groups throughout the rest of the sum­mer and hope­fully reach an agree­ment that will al­low the build­ing to be­gin con­struc­tion in the fall.

Re­port­er Hay­den Mit­man can be reached at 215-354-3124 or hmit­man@bsmphilly.com 

You can reach at hmitman@bsmphilly.com.

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