Fishtowners say no to Richmond Street music venue

Fishtown residents voted 57 to 38 against endorsing a live music venue proposed for 2055 Richmond Street.

Developer David Grasso, president of Grasso holdings, told the crowd gathered at First Presbyterian that Philly’s live music scene has shifted toward Delaware Avenue, and his proposed venue would capitalize on that. He promised there would be no DJ-only nights, and that concerts would almost all end by 11 p.m. Drinking would be confined to one area, he said. And all parking would be next door or on an adjacent site.

But while some attendees noted that Grasso’s latest plan responded to earlier expressed concerns from the surrounding  neighborhoods, most who addressed the Fishtown Neighbors Association Zoning Committee said they feared the place would bring back the same public inebriation and other problems they dealt with when nightclubs lined Delaware Avenue.

There is a zoning overlay in place that prevents night clubs from operating in the area. First District Councilman Frank DiCicco was instrumental in getting that piece of legislation passed. It is also DiCicco who early this summer proposed legislation that would exempt the Richmond Street property from the overlay.

“This is not a nightclub,” DiCicco told the crowd. Grasso said he thought of it more as a theater – and in fact, he hoped to host theatrical productions and musical theater numbers in addition to concerts from every genre and for every age group.

But several times when Grasso spoke of the project, he called it a club. And the audience called him on it.

Fishtown resident Nancy Martino was one of them. “What will make this project different from a nightclub?” she asked. Grasso said that “night club” means different things to different people. He asked Martino to specify what she was worried about.

DiCicco, who has also been a driving force behind the on-going Master Plan for the Central Delaware, said he thinks the club fits nicely into that vision for the waterfront. One resident wanted to know why, then, the proposal couldn’t wait until the Master Plan is finished early next year. He said it felt to him like the zoning change was being rushed through. DiCicco denied this, saying there is no way city council will even have a public hearing on the zoning proposal until October.

Another Fishtown resident, Julian Hinson, praised the project. “I think it’s a great thing,” Hinson said. “There is nothing going on in this part of the city. There is crime back there now.”

Letters will be sent to the Planning Commission and City Council reflecting the vote. But after the results were announced to the room, DiCicco said he wanted to work with Grasso to come up with an amended ordinance to include conditions that might make the proposal more amenable to more Fishtowners.

A clearly disappointed Grasso said he was open to that. Otherwise, he wasn’t sure what would happen next, he said, but he is not giving up on the project.


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