Fishtown could see less old factories, more new apartments

Com­munity mem­bers vote ‘yes’ on Tulip Street and Columbia Av­en­ue de­vel­op­ments, neigh­bors liv­ing with­in 500 feet vote ‘no.’

The former REACH fact­ory at 1701 Tulip Street, which Domani De­velopers has pro­posed to con­vert in­to hous­ing. SAM NE­W­HOUSE / STAR PHOTO

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 caf&ea­cute;, 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. ••

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