For several years, the former KFC-Long John Silver’s building at 23 W. Girard Ave. has sat abandoned and unused.
That might change. A group of prospective owners visited the Fishtown Neighbors Association’s Zoning Committee last week to discuss plans to turn the black, graffiti-covered building near the Market-Frankford Line’s Girard Station into a 7-Eleven.
But, it seemed to be a plan neighbors didn’t favor, at least, not without a few concessions.
In introducing the presentation, Matt Karp, chairman of the Zoning Committee, urged residents to create a Community Benefits Agreement with the owners of the proposed convenience store, because the owners wouldn’t need any input from area residents to build the 7-Eleven except for one detail.
Due to the city’s North Delaware Avenue Special District Control overlay — a zoning document that defines what development may come to the area — the 7-Eleven was stopped by one simple condition: take-out food and coffee sales.
Under the overlay, no take-out food or beverage sales are allowed without a variance from the Zoning Board of Adjustment.
However, at last week’s meeting, Karp told residents that the issue holding up development was so minor that the zoning board might support the plan regardless of neighborhood approval.
“It was stopped by an overlay that was made for nightclubs. This is not a night club,” he said.
Instead, the property would be a typical 7-Eleven convenience store, with round-the-clock hours and parking for 17 vehicles.
Also, due to 7-Eleven’s own policies, the owners, a team of Vipul Patel and Dipen Patel, will be required to install 16 video surveillance cameras inside and around the perimeter of the building.
The building would be repainted from the stark, vandalized black it currently wears, to a tan seen on most 7-Eleven shops across the country. The building also would get new signs — one on the building and one on the post in the parking lot.
The small driveway the former fast food restaurant used as a drive-thru will be retained, although it will not be used for any drive-thru services. It will simply be a turn-around route for vehicles exiting the lot.
Attorney for the Patels, Matthew Lipman of McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney and Carpenter, presented the plan as a unique 7-Eleven, not a template design, tailored to the location.
“We believe this is an ideal location for a 7-Eleven,” he said. “We’ve spent a lot of time and a lot of money on this site.”
The Patels, who own another 7-Eleven in Patterson, N.J., and other shops, including a Speedy Mart in Audubon, N.J., plan to hire locally, and if approved, could possibly have the 3,452- square-foot store up and running in four to six months.
But, during last week’s meeting, residents said they were concerned that lighting from the 24-hour operation could irritate local residents that litter dropped by store patrons could accumulate, that late-night truck deliveries could keep locals awake, and that the sidewalk on Leopard Street, at the eastern edge of the 7-Eleven’s proposed parking lot, needs to be repaired.
At the end of the evening, it seemed these issues kept residents from fully endorsing the plan, and it was rejected with a vote of 16-21.
Yet, that evening, the owners seemed to want to be a part of the community. Lipman said as much a number of times, and the owners said they would be open to creating a benefits agreement with the FNA.
In fact, the team that proposed the plan even returned to the meeting just before it ended to discuss how they could address some of the residents’ concerns.
For example, the Patels said that another of their stores in New Jersey has a problem with litter due to a high volume of traffic from high school students, and at that store there are extra trash cans and employees make sure areas outside of the store are free of trash.
On Thursday, last week, Karp said discussions were still ongoing in the hopes of creating a CBA to address residential concerns.
The project will go before the Zoning Board of Adjustment on Wednesday, June 29, at 2 p.m.
Also during last week’s meeting, neighbors approved a proposal for a roof deck on a residence at 1218 Shackamaxon St. The deck would be set back about 12 feet from the street and wouldn’t be visible to pedestrians.
Also, a garage that had been used by contractors for storage at 153 Richmond St., was approved for conversion into a small residence. ••
Reporter Hayden Mitman can be reached at 215-354-3124 or firstname.lastname@example.org