Developer Michael Samschick hopes to revitalize and re-use the Edward Corner Marine Building and fill in the rest of the now-vacant block on the west side of Delaware Avenue at Shackamaxon Street with multi-use development.
He told the Fishtown Neighbors Association's zoning committee a bit about the concepts he has for the parcel, located across the street from SugarHouse Casino, at a Tuesday night meeting. Samschick said nothing is set in stone yet. But he has concepts and “opportunities.”
Because of the casino, “everybody and their brother will want to be doing all kinds of things,” Samschick said. “I don't know if you are pro or against the casino, because it's here, there are opportunities,” he said. “What's important is for me to get feedback on what your feelings are,” he told the committee during what they call a “screening.”
Samschick showed an architectural rendering of a more-polished, but easily recognizable Corner building. The ground floor holds a restaurant called The Shackamaxon Diner. It appears brightly lit from the inside, and has many windows. The upper floors look little changed from the way the building appears now, with the painted advertising for marine-related wares still visible.
Samschick took a few other buildings that were on the site down earlier this year. At the time, local historian Kenneth Milano said they were of little significance. But the Corner building is another story, Milano said, because it is one of the few remaining vestiges of Fishtown's former river industry. The empty space where those other buildings once stood is now a lot of flattened earth. People are parking there. Samschick said he is not charging them.
In the space the demolition created to the right of the Corner building, Samschick wants to do several projects in several phases. What they will have in common is retail establishments on the ground floor, with residential or office space above. One option in the mix is a convenience store. “Parking would be hidden behind,” Samschick told the committee.
Committee member Sarah Thorp, who is also the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation's manager of the Central Delaware Master Plan – a document that will guide development between Oregon and Allegheny Avenues and I-95 and the river for decades to come – told Samschick that street-level, multi-use development fits in with the concepts of the plan.
After the meeting, Thorp said the preservation of the Corner building was a good thing, too. “We encourage the repurposing of older buildings,” she said.
Out in the hallway, as he awaited the FNA committee's decision on another matter, Samschick declined to comment further on his ideas for the Corner building and other property on the lot, except to emphasize that everything was conceptual at this point, and it has not yet been decided that a diner would go on the bottom floor. He said further questions should be emailed to his office.
Committee Chairman Micah Hanson advised Samschick to come back to the committee at a community meeting when his plans are more concrete. It is at these meetings where community members vote for or against a project, and that vote is communicated to the appropriate city agency.
Samschick's company, Core Management Services, sent a letter to people who live near the 1100 block of North Delaware Avenue last week to let them know that the company is considering paving the parking lot and putting plants and a fence around it. The letter states the desire for a community meeting, and gives a number to call. Samschick said the lot would be filled with stores over the long term. FNA zoning told him they could set up a meeting for him, and that has been set for 7:30 pm. Aug. 10 at the Fishtown Rec Center.
Also during the screening and at a community meeting that followed, Samschick spoke of his ongoing plans for the 1000 block just across Shackamaxon Street, which he also owns. Last month, city zoning denied an application made by a tenant of Samschick's company to run an alcohol-free catering hall with live music on the second floor of 1030 Delaware Avenue. The tenant “has been in the building forever,” Samschick told the committee. And neighbors said they indeed hear music there. Fishtown zoning committee member Matt Karp said the application was a matter of “legalizing” an existing use. Samschick asked for a community meeting on this issue quickly. This will also take place Aug. 10, and the results of the vote will be forwarded to the Zoning Board of Adjustment.
Now about the matter the committee voted on ... at 1080 N. Delaware Avenue – the 130,000 square foot building where SugarHouse Casino has had its offices during construction – Samschick tenant Jesse Munoz wants to open an 1,100-square foot, 25-seat coffee shop/restaurant called Cafe Venice.
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