After a closed-door meeting today with members from District Councilman Mark Squilla’s office, the Pennsport Civic Association, and Cedar-Riverview LP, the historic Engine 46 firehouse on Front Street remains endangered, now with an even greater urgency.
Cedar had quietly pulled a demolition permit in February, but a series of media stories, including Hidden City’s, drew attention to the Dutch/Flemish Revival firehouse built in 1894. Cedar wants to know where all this interest has been in the seven years since the Engine 46 Steakhouse closed.
Citing the repointing of brickwork and an overhauled roof, Cedar claims they’ve actively and aggressively tried to make use of Engine 46, even hiring a brokerage firm to find a tenant who would specifically fit the case, but they’ve had no takers—even after all the “free publicity” given to the building in the past six months. Needless to say, they also have no plans to designate the building as historic.
James Moylan, president of Pennsport Civic, says, “there’s nothing disingenuous about what Cedar told us,” recognizing that Cedar’s job is to rent the space they own. “[But] if you’re going to subtract something this good, you’ve got to add something back that’s good.”
“At the end of the day,” says Councilman Squilla chief of staff Anne Kelly, “they own the building, it’s not [designated] historical, and they have a valid demolition permit.” Kelly added that the councilman wants to see the building preserved, but it’s ultimately up to the tenant that Cedar lands.
To that end, Pennsport Civic wants to help. With a non-binding arrangement, Pennsport Civic has agreed to mitigate communication with Cedar-Riverview for prospective uses. “We’ve tried to encourage them to be a participant in the neighborhood, so we’re doing our part to help by vetting requests that might come in,” Moylan says. “A butterfly museum might not fly, but a microbrewery or a Marc Vetri, Stephen Starr type restaurant could be great.” Prospective tenants should email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Pennsport Civic Facebook Page.
Cedar did not provide a timeframe for which they’ll entertain this process, but Moylan indicates, “they’re not likely to demolish starting tomorrow.”
Squilla chief of staff Kelly says, “if they can get a tenant for it, they’ll obviously keep the building.”
But the time to find that tenant is running out. A demolished firehouse (and adjacent game store) would mean a blank footprint, which could prove a lot more marketable to Cedar. If you’ve got an idea for Engine 46—one that will generate revenue—Pennsport Civic would like to hear from you.