Planners hold off on vote for ramp, vestibule wanted by the developer of a big-names Broad Street restaurant project

Those behind the restaurant reuse of the former Wilkie Buick dealership on Broad Street want to build a new vestibule and ramp that would take up nearly half the sidewalk on the south side of Mount Vernon Street, between Broad and North 15th streets.

But 600 North Broad Developer Eric Blumenfeld and his team need to do more work to convince the Philadelphia City Planning Commission to support the legislation that would allow this, Streets Bill No. 110311, introduced by Fifth District Councilman Darrell Clarke.

The project is expected to be home to eateries and other projects operated by some of Philadelphia’s biggest names in food: Stephen Starr, Marc Vetri, and caterer Joe Volpe.  This bill applies to Marc Vetri’s restaurant. 

The ramp would improve access to the building, city planner Sarah Chiu told the commission last week. But when Vice-Chairman Joe Syrnick questioned why a 7-foot wide encroachment was needed for the project,  architect Stephen Varenhorst said it would also hold small, outdoor dining tables.

“The whole idea is to have life on the street,” Varenhorst explained.

Syrnick moved that the commission oppose the bill. “I think you’re taking sidewalk for the use of the restaurant,” Syrnick said. “I just don’t think it’s the right thing to do.”

Commissioner Nancy Rogo-Trainer wasn’t happy, either.  “The way it was presented here was as a way of getting accessibility, which I think is a little disingenuous,” she said.

Rogo-Trainer indicated she might be supportive of the project, but she needed to see the whole plan, with context, to make up her mind. She noted that a drawing wasn’t given to commissioners until that day. 

In the end, Syrnick withdrew his motion to oppose. But the Commission said the developer should provide staff with complete information as soon as possible. They tabled the project for 45 days, which means that City Council can note vote on the legislation until the commission acts or the 45 days expires.

With an eye on city council’s impending summer break, commissioners noted they intended to act prior to the expiration of the 45 days.  They have a special meeting on June 7.

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