Torresdale residents, restaurant owner look for middle ground in expansion

Since 1935, 9242 N. Delaware Ave. has housed several bars and restaurants. For the past three years; however, this address has been housing several concerns for the neighbors of  East Torresdale’s Pleasant Hill pocket.

Individuals present at Monday’s East Torresdale Civic Association meeting placed Maggie’s Waterfront Café, at the top of their list of issues facing the neighborhood.

John Swiker lives five blocks away from Maggie’s and says the dispute has been going on since he began attending the civic association’s meetings last year.

“It’s a quality of life thing. People don’t mind the bar, in actuality. I go to this bar. It’s the events that are going on,” he said. “The music is going too loud too long. If they kept it inside it wouldn’t be a problem. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.”

Current owner Kevin Goodchild purchased the building where Maggie’s now stands in 2008. Goodchild said he initially envisioned his business to be a small indoor restaurant and bar for local residents.

This vision; however, has expanded to have an outdoor deck and a parking lot that is currently registered by the Philadelphia Zoning Code Commission for single-family dwellings ad places of worship.  Goodchild and his attorney now hope to continue with the expansion by not only obtaining a permit for the parking lot, but by consolidating neighboring lots to expand Maggie’s even further.

“I took some things upon myself that I thought were legal and some that weren’t legal and I’m trying to work them out now,” Goodchild said. “The issues escalated the day I received an outdoor café license. When I looked at this place, I saw so much potential being right on the river.”

But with Goodchild’s past actions fresh in their minds, local residents are not too keen on his formal proposal. Jackie Kelly has been a resident of Pleasant Hill for 61 years. She said he feels Maggie’s growth and Goodchild’s plans have gotten out of control.

“We are extremely hesitant on voting for something for him, simply because we’re afraid he’ll take it and run with it, because that is what he has done in the past,” she said. “So why should we believe now that his intentions are good?”

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Goodchild and his attorney will not face Philadelphia’s Zoning Board until some form of mediation takes hold in the neighborhood. Community Relations Representative Jonah Roll from the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations was called into last night’s meeting to present an information session on community mediation. He also attended to see if there was anything the city agency could do to reach an agreement between both parties.

It’s a popular spot so you get people from pretty far away that come and, you know, this is a quiet area along the river and for their money this doesn’t necessarily fit what the community’s about,” Roll said. “ [Goodchild’s] not doing anything wrong legally, just the venue and the community are clashing.”

Maggie’s holds three events a year that bring a lot of traffic and rowdy visitors into the neighborhood. These events; however, also raise a substantial amount of money for causes including cerebral palsy research and the Philadelphia Police and Fire departments.

Goodchild hopes the neighbors living close by to his establishment will work with him to help expand his business without the outcome negatively impacting their homes in the process.

“Most people, if they know about Maggie’s they know what kind of crowd it is,” he said.“ I am trying to give them a great establishment in a nice neighborhood. I’m willing to give back to the neighborhood and I’m willing to work with them, but I need their support first.”

Any decisions regarding Maggie’s expansion have been delayed until July 6. Goodchild and his attorney may have to hold off even longer before any type of solution can be reached.

Gina Benigno and Danny Donnelly are students reporting for Philadelphia Neighborhoods, a publication of Temple University’s Multimedia Urban Reporting Lab.

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