Though the primary — and overwhelming — concern was the availability of parking, Fishtown residents voted in support last Tuesday of Core Realty’s proposal for a “family-friendly entertainment” spot along Canal Street.
The assembly voted 86-25 in support of the project, which was discussed at length in the meeting last week, hosted by the Fishtown Neighbors Association’s zoning committee at the First Presbyterian Church of Kensington on Girard Avenue.
The issues discussed at the meeting will be addressed in a letter to the Philadelphia City Planning Commission written by the FNA.
Core Realty met with the PCPC yesterday to present the proposal, but it could take some time for a response—The FNA said in its presentation that the PCPC’s decision is final, but could make major changes to the proposal. If so, it could come back up for discussion at future community meetings.
The plan was presented as “phase one” of an extensive overhaul of the area. The plan, presented by developer Michael Samschick, president of Core Realty, would see a “repurposing” of two existing buildings: the Ajax and Dry Ice buildings.
Scott Page of urban planning practice Interface Studio, a consultant for Core Realty, made the primary presentation at the meeting.
“[This project is] trying to save the buildings and preserve their character,” he said. “We want to transform the look and feel of the area.”
He added, “We’re trying to overcome it being so disconnected.”
The plan would bring a 3,000 person capacity LiveNation music venue, a country-western themed bar, an 18-lane bowling alley, a distillery and restaurant, two retail spaces, and two lots under I-95 for parking.
As far as parking, the two lots would allow space for 337 vehicles and 66 bicycles.
The plan, Page said, is to strike a balance regarding parking.
“We want enough parking, but not seas of parking,” he said, adding that given the proposed entertainment district’s location within certain parking regulation overlay areas, the plan could see between 400 and 600 parking spaces.
When one woman in attendance pointed out that the 337-spot proposed parking plan was only the minimum, Page said it was due to the area’s proximity to transit.
Samschick said a larger parking structure could be part of a later phase of the complete project.
Jill Betters, president of the FNA, said it was a concern that the developers had “no complete parking plan.”
“People choose to live in Fishtown because it’s easy to park here,” she said after the meeting.
Henry Pyatt, commercial corridor manager for the New Kensington Community Development Corporation, suggested at the meeting that Core Realty work with SEPTA to encourage the use of public transit to the area.
The project would also see a triangle-shaped plaza off the Ajax building that would be filled with greenery and lighting. An LED billboard is also included in the plan, which raised the ire of some attendees.
Residents also had concerns about the LiveNation music venue, which would bring approximately 65 concerts a year to the area. LiveNation’s spokesman at the meeting assured the crowd that the venue would bring a variety of acts for families, children and teens.
The project was repeatedly called “family-friendly.” Samschick and his colleague, Randall Mineo, said phase one of the project seeks to bring larger national “anchor” businesses to the district, which would in turn attract smaller, community-focused operators to the retail spaces.
He said the two retail spaces could be broken up to see four or five tenants in each.
Samschick said he hopes to begin the project as soon as possible.
“This piece [of the project] is t he driver for all the things we’ve been waiting four years to do,” he said.”
A.J. Thompson, president of the Friends of Penn Treaty Park, expressed his support of the project at the meeting.
“This is the kind of development we’ve been lacking for 30 to 40 years,” he said.
“If we want the waterfront to move forward, this is the kind of thing that will ignite it.”
Star Managing Editor Mikala Jamison can be reached at 215-354-3113 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.