Fishtown PECO plant to be considered for historic designation

In a marathon hearing of the Philadelphia Historical Commission’s designation committee on Wednesday there was no disagreement as to whether the former PECO power station just north of Penn Treaty Park is historic. Not in the minds of the committee, commission staff, community members, or even the representative of the owner. All are keenly aware that the buidling, by important civic architect John Windrim, was designed as a powerful corporate expression for PECO and that it has become a powerful community landmark.

The only objections were to the completeness and robustness of the nomination, which was prepared by volunteers Stephanie Haller and Fishtown resident Jill Betters. 

“As a worthy building it deserves a worthy nomination,” said committee member Bruce Laverty.

Kevin McMahon, of the tax credit consultancy Powers & Co, represented the owner, Cescaphe Event Group at the hearing. He said the owners did not take issue with the nomination as such, raising instead numerous points that would improve the nomination. McMahon wrote a recent and substantial nomination to list the buidling in the National Register of Historic Places, which was approved by the state early this year and is under consideration by the federal government presently. That will enable the owners to pursue preservation tax credits toward the old power station’s reuse. 

“I sympathize with your desire to make a stronger nomination,” said committee chair Emily Cooperman. “That said we have enough information to assess nomination.” 

The committee unanimously voted to recommend nomination of the former generating station, and it will be heard at the Historical Commission at its July meeting. The nomination itself may be modified with additional research before that time.

The nomination comes as Fishtowners and waterfront advocates alike anticipate the 99-year old power plant’s redevelopment. Late last year the Central Delaware Advocacy Group met with Joe Volpe, of Cescaphe Event Group, to discuss plans to convert the former power station into a mixed-use event space in partnership with developer Bart Blatstein. At that time renderings showed two event spaces, two restaurants, and blocks of guest rooms on upper floors reserved for events. Volpe and Blatstein bought the 11-acre site for $3 million in August 2015.

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