New sign at controversial storefront across from SugarHouse: For Sale

The Cash for Gold signs have been gone for months, but a new sign recently went up at the small storefront across from Sugar House Casino: NOW FOR SALE.

The original green neon signs created a controversy back in April – and led to a change in city zoning law.

The site was granted an over-the-counter permit for a jewelry store with a precious metals dealer license – which means that 25 percent of the floor space can be devoted to the purchase and sale of precious metals, but at least 75 percent must be devoted to the sale of jewelry.

There was a jewelry case inside the store front, but there was also a safety-glass window with a little circle for talking to someone behind it, and a pass-through.  And none of the neon signs referenced jewelry.

To many neighborhood residents, city councilmen Frank DiCicco and Darrell Clarke, and other critics, cash-for-gold was another name for a pawn shop – and they were especially concerned about that type of establishment  opening across the street from a casino. So were neighborhood residents on both sides of the casino issue, and so was SugarHouse management.

But city zoning did not specifically define cash for gold businesses as pawn shops until legislation was passed in response to the storefront, whose permitting address is 112 E. Allen Street. The legislation does not apply to this store, which was already permitted.

In late April, L&I posted a cease and desist order on the building because the signs were not legal. They came down shortly thereafter. At least from the street, it seemed not much had been happening at the rowhouse-sized building until the sale sign went up.

“I kind of figured they were done,” and no store was coming, said Matt Karp, chair of Fishtown Neighbors Association’s zoning committee.

The sale sign lists a jewelry store facing Delaware Avenue as one of the amenities of the structure, which also includes residential space.
 
Reached by phone Thursday, Don Hudson, the building’s owner, said he had no comment.

L&I spokeswoman Maura Kennedy said there’s not much left to do before a jewelry store with a precious metals license could operate at the site. The cash for gold jewelry store paid for the building permit yesterday. So all that remains is for them to set up the inspection and pass, then they get the occupancy permit.

“They need to schedule a final inspection and then get the certificate of occupancy,” Kennedy said. That inspection would check  to be sure the structure is built correctly, Kennedy said. The building was recently renovated.

Kennedy said she knows the community is concerned about activity related to the precious metals permit, but L&I must give a store operator the benefit of the doubt. “We cannot pre-judge in anyway the operation of this business,” she said.

But once a business opens, “We  plan to make sure pro-actively that the business is operating in compliance.”
Karp said neighbors will be watching. Nobody wants to prevent development on Delaware Avenue, he said, but “if it’s anything that is not a jewelry store … we’ll challenge it.”

Contact the reporter at kgates@planphilly.com

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