Former Roxborough pizza joint rife with violations deemed ‘unsafe’

 The property at 5101 Rochelle Ave. in Roxborough has been vacant for five years. (Neema Roshania/WHYY)

The property at 5101 Rochelle Ave. in Roxborough has been vacant for five years. (Neema Roshania/WHYY)

The lettering of the Mia’s Pizza sign has been slowly peeling off the side of the building at Rochelle Avenue and Sumac Street for years.

But the property, one of several sights that detract from the eastern gateway to Roxborough, has far worse problems and has been deemed unsafe by the city.

The Department of Licenses & Inspections posted a violation notice on the building 5101 Rochelle Avenue, across from the Wissahickon train station, following an inspection on Sept. 24. A follow-up inspection is scheduled Oct. 28.

If the owner does not correct the violations after two reinspections, L&I will send the case to the city’s Law Department, which will file a complaint against the owner and ask the court to compel compliance and assess fines.

According to Joshua Cohen, special assistant to Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr., attempts to reach the owner, Eric Sacks of Philadelphia, have been unsuccessful. “The owners have made no effort to date to correct the violations,” Cohen said.

The notice posted on the building cites a partially collapsed ceiling and repairs needed to the front entrance and basement. The metal doors leading to the cellar have been broken and dislodged, leaving a gaping hole that could be dangerous to passersby.

“This place has been a dump for years,” said Charles Roller, vice president of the Wissahickon Interested Citizens Association.  “The place is an eyesore, and for what reason does the city allow this to go on?”

A property with potential

Two decades ago, the site was occupied by Moyers Restaurant, an “excellent business” owned by a local family, Roller said. The current owner purchased it 10 years ago, but the building has been vacant for five years.

Roller said Sacks has never taken good care of the building and has owed as much as $40,000 in back taxes to the city. Sacks currently owes $4,082.73 in delinquent real estate taxes for the past year but has entered into an agreement plan to make the payment, according to Department of Revenue records.

The Ridge Avenue hill that rises into Roxborough has many problems, Roller said, including the vacant, former bus depot, illegal billboards, and a property farther up Rochelle Avenue that once housed the Superior Auto shop but is now in disrepair. “It’s a hideous gateway to Roxborough,” he said.

The former pizza shop has plenty of potential, Roller believes. Its proximity to the train station, which is undergoing renovations by SEPTA and will have new landscaping in the spring, adds value to the property. “That’s the irony of it. This would be a prime spot for a corner deli or restaurant. It can work,” Roller said.

He has heard that local builders have contacted Sacks with proposals to buy the property, with no success.

“He just doesn’t care,” Roller said. “Meanwhile, we’re suffering.”

NewsWorks has partnered with independent news gatherer PlanPhilly to provide regular, in-depth, timely coverage of planning, zoning and development news. Contact Alan Jaffe at alanjaffe@mac.com.

Correction: A previous version of this article implied that demolition is imminent. It is not. NewsWorks regrets the error.

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