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.
That movie theater complex, in fact that whole area of Delaware Avenue, is aching for a reasonably priced but excellent restaurant. Bone Fish and California Pizza Kitchen are two chains that come to mind — because both are very good and reasonably priced. A Starr restaurant would be too expensive, they always are. And, as the empire grows, the quality has greatly diminished at each new place. (Sorry. But true.)
Or another stellar local place is Nomad Pizza (7th & Bainbridge), or perhaps another famous and popular Food Truck is ready to go bricks and mortar. It\’s got to be one ready for the volume and high level of service and turnover necessary to get people out to films on time.
(The restaurant Engine 46 many moons and a big fire ago (ironic), was not good at all — and that\’s why it failed. It was not that there was not demand for a great spot for dinner and a film.)
My initial thoughts (without having seen the space, which I hope to see soon) are to refit it with an organic food market. With the changing demograpics of Pennsport as well as consumers\’ desire for locally sourced organic foods, I think this might be the perfect fit. Does anyone know who the leasing agent is, and has anyone actually seen the space and could confirm that a market could work here?
There are and have been for many years, information signs on and around the building / complex, listing how to contact the owner. No mystery, no hiding who they are.
They\’re in the business of filling their spaces, so are easily contacted:
That has all the information you need to reach the appropriate individuals for lease information.
If you have a solid, credible, financed and ready to go business, they will respond.
Best of luck
Peter, if you have a serious interest, please email email@example.com and they can give you more information. I haven\’t been inside in quite a few years (the restaurant closed in 06), but I remember the space being a bit odd. A lot of the seating was upstairs. That is probably one of the big reasons no one else has rented the property. I truly hope somebody can save this building. It would be a travesty to see it demolished simply to make space.