Two large housing developments at former industrial sites in Fishtown, planned by Domani Developers, may soon bring a combined 84 new residential units and a fitness gym to the neighborhood.
The developments, at 1701 Tulip St. and 1421-27 E. Columbia Ave., were hotly debated by more than 180 Fishtown residents at last week’s meeting of the Fishtown Neighbors Association’s zoning committee.
Ultimately the community members voted yes, 107 - 77. The local vote, of residents living within 500 feet of the developments, was no, 48 - 32.
Neighbors at the meeting brought up many issues relating to the potential developments.
One resident said that the dumpsters at these developments would bring a lot of stink and congestion to the neighborhood.
Developer Roland Kassis, general partner at Domani Developers, assured residents that he cared about their neighborhood, too.
“You’ve been here all your lives – I don’t want to be the guy that did this, that brought trash and bad smells to your neighborhood.”
Parking was also a huge issue to neighbors.
The Columbia Avenue site, a former hosiery factory, is planned to include 25 surface parking spots.
“It’s ahead of its time. It’s too soon. There’s no parking infrastructure,” said resident Chuck Valentine.
But Kassis said that many of the tenants attracted to his projects wouldn’t necessarily own or drive cars. The 1701 Tulip St. plans include a 30-stall bike parking indoor garage.
“You won’t say that when your car gets vandalized…He probably owns a bike!” one resident shouted when another resident agreed with Kassis that the building might not need parking.
The city’s Zoning Board of Adjustment will soon hold a hearing to decide on variances for these properties. The Tulip Street project needs zoning variances for the conversion from a warehouse to 30 residential units. The Columbia Avenue project needs variances for the conversion from a warehouse to mixed-use space, with 54 residential units and some commercial units — one of those commercial units is for a proposed City Fitness gym in a ground-floor attachment.
“I’m hoping we’ll get our variances, and I’m hoping we’ll solve some issues with the parking,” Kassis said after the vote was totaled.
He said that he would look into the recommendation from some Fishtown neighbors that the developments get dedicated parking spots for car-sharing services, like Philadelphia Car Share, that future tenants could use.
Kassis is arguably one of the River Wards’ most successful developers. His projects include the Stable Flats in Northern Liberties, Fette Sau and Frankford Hall restaurants in Fishtown, and more than 150 homes.
“When people say Fishtown is the next up and coming neighborhood, I’m like ‘What are you talking about?’ It’s been a great neighborhood, from generation to generation,” Kassis said. “The only thing it didn’t have is a commercial corridor, a café, a gym … that’s what we’re trying to provide.”
In the neighborhood, people had mixed views about Kassis’ residential projects.
Walking with her baby daughter on Tulip Street near the abandoned warehouse that currently sits at the corner, Lydia Chambers, who owns her own personal chef and catering business, Fennels and Frond, said development is good for the neighborhood, but would make things a little more crowded.
“This sort of stuff adds to your property value, which you can’t argue with, but the neighborhood gets busier and busier,” Chambers said.
“I’m fine with it. It’s better than it being abandoned,” said Joe Shaw, who lives right next door to the 1701 Tulip St. site, of the proposal. He attended the FNA zoning meeting, and said that while parking complaints are valid, it’s not a new situation.
“Parking has always been this way. Even before the neighborhood came up, there’s never been parking,” he said. ••