Wendy’s, Ross Dress for Less and Hair Buzz among list of confirmed tenants at former Tastykake site

For decades, the iconic Tastykake sign was a visual point of reference in Nicetown. But it was a different sign—the one announcing the upcoming Bakers Centre retail center on the former bakery site—that drew in Tanya Warrick.

Now she’s planning to move her small business, Warrick Uniforms, from 29th and York to Bakers Centre when the project nears completion, likely in 2013.

“I just drove by and saw the sign,” Warrick said Thursday night at a public meeting developers held to update the community on the project.

About three weeks ago, she called project officials to ask about retail spaces in the $60 million shopping center planned for Fox and Roberts streets, and now looks forward to expanding her shop in a new location. “They really kept their word and helped us,” she said.

More than 50 area residents, business owners and operators, and civic leaders gathered in a meeting room at the Temple Health System campus on Hunting Park Avenue to talk about what’s planned so far and what they’d like to see in the vacant 30-acre site.

Major updates included:

* Aside from the Brown’s ShopRite that will be the center’s anchor, several other tenants including national chains Wendy’s and Ross Dress for Less have been signed;

* Local and regional businesses including beauty supplier Hair Buzz, Metropolitan Laundromat, sneaker store Kicks USA, Tiki Nails, Warrick’s uniform store and soul food eatery Victoria’s Kitchen are also confirmed;

* The six-story Tastykake building at 2801 Hunting Park Ave. will be an adaptive re-use, with new windows, signage and decorative elements;

* Overall, the site is about 60-percent leased, project officials said.

* On an adjacent parcel off Roberts Street that is not technically part of the Bakers Centre site, Restaurant Depot will construct a new store, moving from their current Manayunk location;

* Developers have asked Septa to consider routing local bus lines to create a stop inside the shopping center, in front of the supermarket.

* Permitting for the project is underway and a general contractor is expected to be chosen by the end of November, with major site work to get underway in early 2012.

In general, those who attended seemed pleased with the mix of tenants so far, but some expressed a desire to see a recreational or family entertainment use included on the site—possibly inside the Tastykake building, which has large floor plan areas.

“We really need recreational facilities, and that big building you have could house at least 10 good recreational uses,” said local committeewoman Dolores Robinson.

Others were curious about what assistance might be available to help smaller, local businesses find a place in the new center.

“We are willing to do a certain amount of base building work,” said Peter Maggio from US Realty, the leasing arm of property owner Metro Development Co. “If we can afford to build it, we’ll build it for them.”

Matthew and Obie Foster, father and son carpenters, came to the meeting to ask about whether a hardware or home-improvement store was likely.

Bianchi and Maggio said developers had talked to Lowes and Home Depot, but with the large anchor already in place and the Tastykake building “virtually indestructible,” there isn’t room at the site. But said they’ve also approached retailers like Ace Hardware, which operates in smaller, franchised locations, about Bakers Centre.

“We need a local hardware store,” Matthew Foster said. “I don’t always want to go all the way to Home Depot to buy a box of nails.”

Obie Foster remarked on how it seems the neighborhood is coming full circle from where it was when he moved in more than 40 years ago. “A lot of the things they’re talking about putting in there, we had at one point. Then they all went away and now they’re starting to come back,” he said.

Several who attended asked about jobs, both in construction and on-site once the center opens, for local residents. The project has received about $12 million in state redevelopment assistance funding.

Jeffrey Smith of Baker and Company, the consulting firm doing marketing and community outreach for the project, said local hiring efforts won’t be done piecemeal — tenants will be encouraged to hold job fairs to fill an expected 700 permanent jobs. Part of the general contractor’s responsibility will be accountability for local and diverse hiring of about 350 workers during construction, Smith said.

Contact Amy Z. Quinn at azquinn@planphilly.com

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