Waterfront developer plans 3,000-person music venue, restaurants, a bowling alley and a distillery at Ajax Metal Works site

Developer Michael Samschick hopes to transform the former Ajax Metal Works, at Frankford and Delaware avenues in Fishtown, into a 3,000-person music venue, a bowling alley, two restaurants and a distillery.

He also intends to turn the nearby dry ice building at 44  Richmond Street into a country and western establishment with live music, said Fishtown Neighbors Association Zoning Committee Chair Matt Karp. 

Samschick met with the zoning committee at a Tuesday night screening meeting, at which the committee determined the proposal is ready for public presentation at the Sept. 11 Fishtown Neighbors Association meeting, which is open to the public.

The zoning committee did not take a position on the proposal but did offer the developer a bit of feedback, Karp said.

“We did let (Samschick’s team) know that we were happy to see a reusing of existing buildings, not knocking them down and creating new ones,” Karp said. “That is seen as a plus.” None of the buildings would grow taller, Karp said, but Samschick does hope to place a sign on top of the Ajax building, and put a “slight addition” on the dry ice building, Karp said.

The now-vacant Ajax building at 1002-52 Frankford , formerly a portion of the Ajax Metal Company, was this spring recommended for listing on the National Register of Historic Places by the Pennsylvania state review board. No further action has been taken.

The main entrance to the Ajax building music venue would not be on Frankford Avenue, but on Canal Street. Committee members also said this was a good thing, Karp said. “There are residences on the north side of Frankford Avenue, and the more sheltered they can be from people going to the music venue, the better for the community,” he said.

Parking for these proposed business got a mixed review, Karp said.  Most of the 337 spaces would be located beneath I-95. “We’re not seeing that as a bad use for the area,” Karp said. “It was noted that their parking was a little light, but they knew that.”  The proposal calls for surface lots at 25 Richmond St., 49-61 Richmond St., 1011-23 N. Front, 1025-31 N Front, and 35-51 Laurel St.

Karp said a power point presentation was made with line-drawing sketches of the plans. He did not have copies. He expected Samschick would have more detailed drawings in time for the Sept. 11 meeting, time and place to be announced.

Karp said Samschick plans to appear before the Philadelphia City Planning Commission for an information-only presentation on Sept. 18.  However, Planning Commission Executive Director Gary Jastrzab said Thursday that it has not yet been determined whether this development will be on the agenda confirmed for the agenda.

Because this proposed project is located with the Central Delaware Overlay, Samschick will need PCPC approval on the plan of development. Samschick has had discussions with the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation, which oversaw the development of the Central Delaware Master Plan, the long-term planning document that describes the city’s vision for the future of the waterfront.

Samschick enjoys reusing buildings, and earlier this year finished an apartment development at Brown and Front streets in Northern Liberties, in buildings that were once an auto storage facility. This current proposal, and those apartments, called Penn Treaty Village Pennthouses, are portions of Samschick’s larger plan for the several blocks he owns along Delaware Avenue.

The developer has not yet unveiled his master plan, and the details were not part of the Tuesday night discussion. But in an article about the Pennthouses, Samschick who could not be reached for comment for this article, also said his plans included everything from residential to retail to commercial developments.

He said he began buying up property on or near Delaware Avenue about four years ago, because he believes the waterfront is going to have a huge impact on the city.

Reach the reporter at kgates@planphilly.com

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