Tensions have been running high as Giavannone Construction, owner of 5901 Ridge Ave., continues rally for a Wendy’s with a drive-thru at the busy urban and historical location.
The debate began last December when the decision was made final to demolish the Bunting House, a historic Victorian home that has stood at the corner of Ridge and Roxborough since the 1800s. Though the Giavannone brothers are allowed to build a Wendy’s by right under the current zoning code, a special exception is needed in order for a drive-thru to be included.
At noon on Wednesday, Nov. 13, the Giavonnone brothers and corporate Wendy’s will appear in front of the Philadelphia Zoning Board of Appeals, located at 1515 Arch Street, in an effort to be granted a special exception.
In anticipation of the hearing, Newsworks spoke with the following members of the Roxborough community to better understand the varied perspectives on the potential Wendy’s:
David Schiman is an acupuncturist and owner of Roxborough Community Acupuncture, the co-founder of the Roxborough Business Exchange, and the Chairman of the Manayunk-Roxborough Food-Co-op. He is opposed to the plan for a Wendy’s on Ridge Avenue.
Christine Kerper is a Roxborough resident and mother who manages a tanning salon in North Wales. She supports the plan for a Wendy’s on Ridge Avenue.
Thomas Kerr has lived in Roxborough for 54 years. He currently works for Wawa in Conshohocken. He supports the plan for a Wendy’s on Ridge Avenue.
John Boyce is also a Roxborough native. He is a U.S. Postal Worker and co-founder of Friends of Gorgas Park. He is opposed to the plan for a Wendy’s on Ridge Avenue.
Jose Casalina has lived in Roxborough since 1996. He owns an architectural design consulting firm and is a board member for the Roxborough Development Corporation. He is opposed to the plan for a Wendy’s on Ridge Avenue.
Kevin Consolo was raised in Roxborough and runs a sound company with many clients in Roxborough. He supports the plan for a Wendy’s on Ridge Avenue.
NewsWorks asked each person the following four questions:
1. What are your thoughts on the potential Wendy’s and the impact it will have on the community if built?
David Schiman, Jose Casalina and John Boyce are opposed to the Wendy’s, mainly due to its threat to neighborhood safety.
Schiman stated, “A drive through will increase traffic at an already congested intersection, will pose a threat to the safety of pedestrians and cyclists not to mention Kendrick, the fully utilized recreational center across the street and two schools within a few blocks, Amy Northwest and Cook-Wissahickon. A drive-thru is out of character for the central Roxborough corridor along Ridge Avenue and the traffic engineer for the developer said the Wendy’s with the drive-thru will add 41 more cars per hour during the week and 75 cars more per hour on the weekend to the Ridge traffic. It’ll be a nightmare. Not to mention all the trash that will blow around the area from their take out and drive-thru windows.
Boyce said, “The Wendy’s project replaces the historic Bunting House that stood at Ridge and Roxborough Avenue for 150 years and was part of Roxborough’s unique small town legacy. What a lousy, unseemly tradeoff — taking a proud, essential part of Roxborough’s history, razing it to the ground, and before there is time for bereavement. Throwing up a dangerous drive-thru fast food restaurant will threaten the health and safety of schoolchildren, families, walkers and bicyclists.”
Thomas Kerr, Christine Kerper and Kevin Consolo support a Wendy’s on the corner of Ridge and Roxborough and look forward to the jobs the Wendy’s would create.
Kerr stated: “I’m all for it to be honest. A Wendy’s would help the area create jobs for people, both when the building goes up and once it’s standing. There is nothing like it in the area except McDonalds which people are sick of, so to have something better would beneficial. Yes, there are concerns but that’s just about with anything. People are putting everything into the fire before they know what’s going on. Give it a chance!”
2. If not Wendy’s, what would your ideal use of the property be?
Kerr believes Wendy’s is the ideal use of that location. “We can’t chance another bank going up or a vacant lot,” he said. “People are concerned about the kids hanging out there, well maybe it will give them a chance to get off the street and to get a job rather than hanging out on the corners.”
Consolo and Kerper also support the Wendy’s because they have not heard of better plans for the property. However, both stated they’d be open to other businesses if proposed.
“I wouldn’t mind a healthier fast food restaurant like Bryn & Danes or Saladworks, Kerper said.
Consolo added, “I am open minded about other business opportunities for the corner but most new businesses in the Ridge Avenue corridor have been poorly thought out. If the Roxborough community was so concerned about its streets, why do they allow known “drug bars” to remain open?”
Casalina, Boyce and Schiman feel the property should be utilized in the way which the plan overlay intends.
Casalina states, “the zoning overlay for the property is CMX-2 which is commercial mixed use. This means that the property should be used for commercial and living space. The intention of this is to activate life along Ridge Avenue. A Wendy’s drive-thru will not activate life for Roxborough residents, it will provide a quick and cheap stop for people who are just driving through our town.”
Schiman added, “The developers have been unwilling to entertain any other options and in fact have ignored full price offers to buy the property or lease the former building that they tore down. I would love for the Roxborough Manayunk Food Co-op to open there, or perhaps a sit down restaurant that offers healthier food options.”
3. The situation has already caused a lot of tension within the community. What do you think will need to be done in order for the community to move forward in a unified way?
Consolo, Kerper and Kerr think the community will be able to adapt if a Wendy’s is built.
“The bank across the street used to be a Burger World in the 60s and my parents met there and were together for 50 years,” Consolo noted.
“People are going to have to deal with the results,” Kerr said. “If you don’t like it then move out. The whole thing in a nutshell is that what was standing there from the beginning should have never been torn down. That got through the red tape somehow; but it happened and now people need to grow up and move on.”
“Wendy’s will have to make sure the managers are properly trained in preventing the kids from hanging around. I’m sure a little help from the local police would make people feel more comfortable,” Kerper added.
But John Boyce described the Wendy’s as “swinging a wrecking ball into the wonderful Ridge renaissance that is occurring along the business corridor.”
Schiman and Cassalina agree. “If the Wendy’s, or any fast food drive-thru, gets built, I fear that neighbors in the area will begin trying to sell their homes, or worse yet, renting them out because they will be unable to sell. Property values may drop, more renters will move to the area and the area will begin to go downhill,” Schiman stated.
Cassalina added, “Corporate Wendy’s does not understand that this is an established community and if they want to come here than they need to work with us and use the space as the zoning overlay intends.”
“For the community to move forward it will need to reassess what is important to quality of life,” Schiman said. “People will need to get more involved in local efforts to preserve historic character, support the local schools, join the co-op, join their local civic association, and generally get involved in civic life instead of waiting for someone else to do it for them.”
4. Will you be attending the hearing on Nov. 13 and do you have any anticipatory thoughts on it?
Boyce, Casalina and Schiman will be attending the hearing.
“I am paying for a bus to take Wendy’s drive-thru opponents to the ZBA Hearing on Wednesday, Nov. 13. The bus will leave from the Foodery at 6148 Ridge Avenue at 11 a.m. on Wednesday,” Boyce said. “Residents are fully aware that nothing less than the neighborhood’s health and happiness is on the line. Our future sustainability is at stake…Roxborough intends to win this battle because in fact our survival depends on it!”
Thomas Kerr, Christine Kerper and Kevin Consolo will not be attending the Zoning Board Hearing due to their work schedules.
“But I hope to see this Wendy’s open soon,” Consolo said.
Both Giavannone Construction and the Roxborough Development Corporation declined to comment.