Northeast Times

Fishtown entertainment complex, Penn Treaty Village, held up in zoning

The pro­pos­al has earned com­munity sup­port, but a group of res­id­ents liv­ing on Al­len Street op­pose the pro­ject. The ZBA has yet to grant needed vari­ances for the pro­ject.

Jethro Heiko and his wife moved to the 100 block of Al­len Street in Fishtown with their two young chil­dren in 2006 be­cause they said they were look­ing for a quiet place to live.

“It’s this won­der­ful little pock­et of 200-year-old his­tor­ic homes. I know my neigh­bors,” Heiko said.

Heiko said that he was es­pe­cially re­as­sured that his chil­dren would grow up in a quiet, safe neigh­bor­hood be­cause of the North Delaware Av­en­ue zon­ing over­lay that bans nightclubs in the area. The over­lay was passed in 2002 by the City Coun­cil in re­sponse to high rates of crime re­lated to prob­lem clubs and bars on Delaware Av­en­ue.

Now, however, a massive en­ter­tain­ment com­plex known as Penn Treaty Vil­lage has been pro­posed by de­veloper Mi­chael Sam­schick of Core Re­alty.

The pro­posed de­vel­op­ment in­cludes a Fill­more con­cert ven­ue op­er­ated by Live Na­tion, a Toby Keith coun­try and west­ern res­taur­ant with live mu­sic, a second res­taur­ant with a 20-lane bowl­ing al­ley, a dis­til­lery and of­fice space.

It’s all planned to go in­side the old Ajax Met­al Works and a dry ice build­ing at Rich­mond Street and Frank­ford Av­en­ue, just a few hun­dred feet from Heiko’s home.

Last week, at a hear­ing of the Zon­ing Board of Ad­just­ment, Heiko stood up in protest in the audi­ence, along with oth­er Al­len Street res­id­ents, after one of the pro­ject’s plan­ners de­scribed the area as a “no man’s land” in testi­mony.

“What? We live here!” Heiko said, in­ter­rupt­ing the hear­ing. He and oth­er Al­len Street res­id­ents stood up for sev­er­al minutes, to make their pres­ence known to ZBA judges.

“Some folks call it a no man’s land, between the high­way and the wa­ter­front. There’s nobody there,” Penn Treaty Vil­lage plan­ner Janice Wood­cock, of In­ter­face Stu­di­os, had said of the pro­ject’s loc­a­tion dur­ing the ZBA hear­ing, spark­ing Heiko and the oth­er res­id­ents’ ire.

Core Re­alty, which is de­vel­op­ing the $600 mil­lion, 150,000-square-foot pro­pos­al, was be­fore the ZBA seek­ing 10 vari­ances for this pro­ject, in­clud­ing from the North Delaware Av­en­ue zon­ing over­lay that pro­hib­its nightclubs.

A pre­vi­ous hear­ing on April 17 was ad­journed without a de­cision after Heiko and oth­er Al­len Street res­id­ents voiced their op­pos­i­tion to the pro­ject.

Last Wed­nes­day, the ZBA held a spe­cial hear­ing for Penn Treaty Vil­lage.

Sam­schick test­i­fied at the hear­ing that he con­sidered many de­vel­op­ment op­tions for the Ajax and dry ice build­ings, in­clud­ing re­tail and res­id­en­tial op­tions, be­fore set­tling on the cur­rent plan. He said no oth­er op­tion is com­mer­cially vi­able, and said that Penn Treaty Vil­lage is not a nightclub.

“It’s not a nightclub. It’s fam­ily-friendly en­ter­tain­ment,” Sam­schick said.

At a Fishtown Neigh­bors As­so­ci­ation (FNA) Zon­ing Com­mit­tee meet­ing in Septem­ber 2012, neigh­bors at­tend­ing the meet­ing voted 85 to 26 in fa­vor of Penn Treaty Vil­lage.

“The com­munity feels that it’s something that we want to see come to Fishtown,” test­i­fied at­tor­ney Jordan Rush­ie, an FNA board mem­ber who spoke on be­half of the com­munity at the ZBA hear­ing.

“The neigh­bors like that the build­ings are not be­ing de­mol­ished. They ex­pressed that the area has been blighted for a while,” Rush­ie con­tin­ued. “We feel that it would be a trav­esty to leave the area un­developed.”

But at­tor­ney Paul Boni, who rep­res­en­ted Heiko, his wife, and Al­len Street res­id­ent Ed Ver­roll at the hear­ing, dis­agreed.

“This pro­ject is a dis­aster in the mak­ing,” Boni ar­gued. “If you take the con­cert ven­ue with 3,000 people, that alone would blow this neigh­bor­hood out of the wa­ter.”

Boni ar­gued that Penn Treaty Vil­lage must be con­sidered a nightclub, and thus is pro­hib­ited by the zon­ing over­lay. Al­tern­ately, he said, the pro­pos­al does not have enough park­ing, as the city’s zon­ing code re­quires one park­ing spot for every two guests at nightclubs.

The pro­posed con­cert ven­ue has ca­pa­city for 3,000 people and the coun­try and west­ern res­taur­ant has ca­pa­city for 800, which alone would re­quire 1,900 park­ing spaces per Boni’s lo­gic.

But the Phil­adelphia City Plan­ning Com­mis­sion has ap­proved the Penn Treaty Vil­lage pro­pos­al, in part on the con­di­tion that Core Re­alty demon­strate the avail­ab­il­ity at least 500 park­ing spaces.

At­tor­ney An­thony Forte, who rep­res­en­ted Core Re­alty, and city so­li­cit­or An­drew Ross, who rep­res­en­ted the De­part­ment of Li­censes & In­spec­tions, ar­gued that the CPC’s de­cision to ap­prove Penn Treaty Vil­lage su­per­sedes the zon­ing over­lay pro­hib­it­ing nightclubs.

The four-and-a-half-hour hear­ing ended in a con­tinu­ance with no fi­nal de­cision. The ZBA did not say when it would is­sue a de­cision on this mat­ter.

Re­port­er Sam Ne­w­house can be reached at 215-354-3124 or at sne­w­house@bsmphilly.com.

You can reach at snewhouse@bsmphilly.com.

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