Domani Developers converting former Fishtown baseball factory into 30 residences

The Zoning Board of Adjustment voted Wednesday to grant a handful of variances to Domani Developers, which is planning to convert a former baseball factory at 1701 Tulip Street in Fishtown into a 30-unit apartment complex. (Yes, that’s an empty factory that used to make baseballs: the A.J. Reach sporting goods company.)

The building has been vacant since 2004, according to developer Roland Kassis, and he was unable to find a viable industrial use for the property, which is zoned I-2. Kassis said that the city in general and Fishtown in particular have seen a growing demand for small, one- and two-bedroom apartments, which is what he intends to put in the building. According to the zoning application, the developer intends to build a fifth-story addition, roof deck space, and a canopy over the first floor.

The project, designed by architects at Cecil Baker Partners, won the support of the local RCO, Fishtown Neighbors Association, by a vote of 107 to 77. A quick calculation shows that that is not a unanimous vote, and the reason seems to be parking: the planned apartment complex contains none.

Kassis said he believes the project, which is a short walk from Berks Station on the Market-Frankford subway line, will attract residents who are willing to forgo cars in favor of public transportation. Kassis also said that he’d asked the owner of the nearby Memphis Flats whether any of its surface-parking spaces were available for lease, but got turned down.

Council President Darrell Clarke, who represents the neighborhood, did not take a position on the project because of the somewhat divided RCO vote. The Planning Commission lent its support, saying it was consistent with several goals of the comprehensive plan, including finding adaptive reuses for industrial property and building residential units within walking distance of transit stations.

Kassis said he hopes to open the building to residents in about a year, and plans to market the 1-bedroom apartments for between $750 and $1,000.

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