Once ranked among the top 25 douchiest bars in Philadelphia, Finnigan’s Wake, at 3rd and Spring Garden streets in Northern Liberties, is set to be converted into offices.
On Thursday, Councilman Mark Squilla introduced a bill rezoning the property to allow for an addition. The existing bar building will remain, Squilla said; developers will add two stories on top and convert the entire building into office space. The bill rezones the property facing Spring Garden between 3rd and Bodine to CMX-3, up from CMX-2, to allow for the extra height.
Larry Freedman, zoning committee chairman for the Northern Liberties Neighborhood Association, said the group is supporting the zoning change on the understanding that the conversion means the owner would surrender the nightclub permit. The bar is co-owned by State Representative Mike Driscoll. It’s been used over the years as a party bar for college students and Erin Express revelers as well as party headquarters for the Democratic City Committee.
Last fall, Philly.com reported that a planned sale of the bar fell through. Freedman said that Driscoll is now hoping to sell the building to a group of developers, Stockton Real Estate Advisors.
Sam Olshin of Atkin Olshin Schade, the project architect, noted that the building was built in 1905, and was used as a coffin factory before Finnigan’s Wake took it over. It’s never had windows on the south side, he said; the wall facing Spring Garden was originally the party wall to another building that was removed when the street was widened. The redevelopment plans include putting windows on the south wall and opening up the ground floor for retail use.
The masonry walls on the east and west sides of the building will be restored, and Bodine Street, which was previously stricken from the city plan so it could be used by the bar, will be landscaped for public use.
Matt Ruben, president of NLNA, said Northern Liberties residents had been lodging periodic complaints about the bar almost since it opened.
“If there’s an opportunity to replace that use with a use that’s more compatible with what the community would want, and a use that would create jobs, and a use that would virtually insure elimination of the kinds of issues neighbors have been complaining about for the better part of 20 years, then that’s something we certainly should support,” Ruben said.
State Rep. Mike Driscoll did not return a call from PlanPhilly.