More than seven months after a fire gutted much of the Roxborough Market Square shopping center, plans for rebuilding four damaged businesses are now in motion.
The zoning board of adjustment on Wednesday approved a set of use variances needed to replace the Lucky Star restaurant, Pinki Nail salon, cigar shop and a popular VFW Bingo Hall. All have been closed since flames tore through the shopping center at 8919 Ridge Ave. in the early hours of Oct. 17.
The businesses should be reopened by December, said attorney Hercules Grigos, representing property owner Constitution Bank. The plan came with letters of support from Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. and 21st Ward Democratic leader Louis Agre, and earned quick approval from the four ZBA members in attendance.
Grigos said the current zoning code made the variances necessary even to replace existing businesses, because of the percentage of the building and uses that were destroyed. Under the new code, coming into effect in August, a previously approved use can be replaced as long as it has has not been “abandoned,” or inactive, for three years, Grigos said.
“In August, we could have done it by right, but we want to get this rebuilt and get these people back to work,” Grigos said. “We’re rebuilding the center and replacing exactly what was there.”
Neighbor Tom Lederer, who lives on Manatawna Avenue behind the shopping center, which sits between Ridge Avenue and Old Line Road, attended the hearing to put on the record a concern he has about stormwater runoff from the sloping parking lot and into his driveway. But he said he’s looking forward to seeing the shops reopened, and said the property management company had addressed other past concerns promptly.
“Everybody misses Lucky Star,” Lederer said.
After the hearing, Christine Lutz stood in the hallway outside the hearing room with tears in her eyes.
“We’ve all been on unemployment for six months,” said Lutz, who managed the bingo hall for several months before the fire, a job she took over when her longtime boyfriend passed away in August. Lutz was ready for some good news yesterday, and said the bingo hall’s other employees were looking forward to getting back to work.
The Sherwin-Williams automotive paint store, a laundromat, Pina’s Pizza and Graham’s Pub also on the site were mostly unharmed and have remained open for business in the months since the fire.
NewsWorks has partnered with independent news gatherer PlanPhilly to provide regular, in-depth, timely coverage of planning, zoning and development news. Contact Amy Z. Quinn at email@example.com.