Fishtown gets first look at proposed Canal Street North project

Renderings and maps courtesy of Michael Samschick, president of Core Realty.
Renderings and maps courtesy of Michael Samschick, president of Core Realty.
Posted: September 13, 2012

Residents of Fishtown got their first look Tuesday night at how a bend in a forgotten cobblestone alley could be transformed into an entertainment thoroughfare, anchored by a Live Nation concert venue, bowling alley and country western bar and grill.

Canal Street North would be the first phase of the proposed Penn Treaty Village, said Michael Samschick, president of Core Realty, at a packed meeting of the Fishtown Neighbors Association.

His plan is to convert into multiple new uses the shuttered Ajax Metal Company near Frankford and North Delaware Avenues, across from SugarHouse Casino. Live Nation would open a 3,000-seat Fillmore Theater, which would be about the same size as its Tower Theater in Upper Darby.

The Ajax property would also house the 18-lane bowling alley, a restaurant, retail space, offices and a tasting room for a local distillery. Samschick did not disclose the operators, but said he would be ready to begin construction as soon as possible.

Next week, Core Realty will meet with the Philadelphia City Planning Commission to present its plan of development. Since the project is part of the central Delaware River district, which restricts restaurants and entertainment venues, it will require special approvals.

In addition to reviving the Ajax building, the first phase would include renovating a vacant dry ice warehouse, located where East Allen Street turns into Canal, into a country western-themed restaurant.

Canal Street, which follows the course of a creek that was converted into a canal in the 1800s, is "a hidden gem," said Scott Page, a consultant for Core Realty.

More than 100 residents attended the meeting at the First Presbyterian Church of Kensington on Girard Avenue. Community interest in the underutilized industrial area to the west of SugarHouse runs high. A majority of the neighbors supported the idea of reviving this commercial dead zone, but raised concerns about the impact on parking and traffic. The Live Nation venue will feature about 65 concerts a year.

Core Realty owns two parcels of land under Interstate 95 that would be converted into surface parking for 337 vehicles, Samschick said. He added that he owns "multiple lots" in the vicinity that could be used to accommodate visitors to Canal Street. The project also would have spaces for parking 66 bicycles and is walking distance to the Market-Frankford Line.

Samschick has been acquiring property in the area for several years. Core Realty recently converted the first of two eight-story warehouses for trucks into loft apartments. Called the Pennthouses at Penn Treaty Village, the residential project, at North Delaware and Brown Streets, would be the southern anchor of the Canal Street thoroughfare.

Core Realty intends to develop the entire stretch of Canal Street, from the Ajax building to Poplar Street.

Page said the project incorporates the goals of the city's new master plan for the central Delaware district by linking the area to existing neighborhoods and working within the existing footprint of buildings. Right now, the area "feels really disconnected," Page said. "It's basically dead space."

The Ajax building, he said, will have new windows and entries on Frankford Avenue, but the main entrance for the theater will be on Canal Street. The project also features a small triangular plaza off the Ajax building.

Contact staff writer Jennifer Lin at 215-854-5659 or jlin@phillynews.com

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