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What's Happening in:  East Passyunk Crossing 

Should ground-floor commercial spaces be converted to apartments?

A zoning notice popped up recently on a shuttered McKean Street hair salon saying the first floor would no longer be a commercial space.

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City records show that the former Kathy’s Hair Salon, at 1129 McKean St., on the corner of Sartain Street, will be turned into an apartment, joining two others in the building. Now, McKean and Sartain isn’t exactly a bustling commercial corridor, but one would think that you don’t need to live on a commercial corridor to appreciate having businesses nearby.

What do you think? Should the building owner have held out for a business or office to open there?

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41 Responses to Should ground-floor commercial spaces be converted to apartments?

  1. acer April 15, 2014 at 9:32 am #

    if it’s just going to end up as another Asian grocery, I’d rather have apartments honestly. We have enough of those stores. And while I love their convenience, they can be an eyesore on the community if there are too many.

    • bob April 15, 2014 at 10:59 am #

      Hey, Acer-
      What is it was just a convince store? Would you care if it were a white- convince store? Or do you just not the convince stores run by Asian families?

      • acer April 15, 2014 at 1:13 pm #

        That’s a pretty big leap to attempt to call me out as a racist based on that post. Yes, I would have a problem with another convenience store run by white people too. There are too many of them in the area already period.

        • ProvWitout April 16, 2014 at 4:21 am #

          The bright yellow cheap signage would be bad too.. It would look like 12th & Washington… God forbid.. Cheap bright signage that you can’t understand the language.. LoL

    • ProvWitout April 16, 2014 at 4:16 am #

      Yeah just like the Asian beer distributor opening up on Snyder…

  2. David G April 15, 2014 at 10:08 am #

    Although it’s good to have a conversation about what should happen to commercial spaces, it’s essential to mention that this property is CMX-1, which only allows a single residence. This property ALREADY had a variance granted in 2010 for a second apartment in the rear of the property. This variance is for a _third_ apartment. The question is not just what should happen to this property’s storefront, but whether CMX-1 properties, especially smaller two story ones, should be allowed to have three apartments if they have don’t find the commercial space suitable. Also good to keep in mind that the closest comparable zoning district, CMX-2, would (A) only allow two units because of the lot size and B) require that the “100% of the ground floor frontage and within the first 30 ft. of building depth” be a non-residential use.

    All and all, this is a complicated issue. East Passyunk Crossing will have its zoning meeting regarding this on April 23rd at 7PM at Room 211 at Neumann-Goretti, 11th and Moore.

    • Robin P April 15, 2014 at 12:26 pm #

      As the owner and occupant of the building, I feel the need to reply.

      Yes, David G, it ALREADY received a variance for the existing use that had been in place for approximately FIFTY years prior to 2010. I legalized it as soon as I bought it. I follow the rules that you are so enthusiastic about.

      I had the space available for rent, with a sign in the window, as a beauty salon or barbershop for over a year. It has been VACANT for over a year. I received a total of three inquiries regarding use as a beauty salon or barbershop over the course of a year. There is another beauty salon four doors to the west on McKean Street. There are barbershops at 11th and Snyder and 12th and Mifflin. Two of the three callers never even showed up for the appointments they made with me. Nobody wants to open a new salon here.

      One caller was interested in opening a store. There are three corner stores on 12th Street from McKean to Snyder. They keep getting robbed:
      Additionally, a man recently wanted to open a fourth corner store on the southeast corner of 12th and McKean, at 1146 McKean Street. Nobody in our community wanted that store to open and he withdrew his appeal (I would bet that you personally opposed it, too, David G). So, a weave store opened there and promptly went out of business. Now that corner commercial property is vacant, too. The commercial property on the northwest corner appears to be residential now. There are more than enough places to shop around here.

      What I have received over the course of this past year, are dozens of calls asking if I had an apartment for rent in the space. I had to turn all of those people away.

      The city doubled my property taxes this year. I want to put a nice, clean apartment there with new windows. That is also what my community (and the market) wants.

      Please come to the meeting on April 23rd at 7pm in room 211 at Neumann-Goretti, 11th and Moore.

      • Ian W April 15, 2014 at 12:58 pm #

        I agree with Robin P. The facts are before us; let it be filled.

      • ProvWitout April 16, 2014 at 4:13 am #

        Well argued Robin P. I agree with you. I wish you luck with this. It is better to open up some much needed nice clean apartments than have some ramshackle cheap low class business open up and degrade the neighborhood.. That is what is happening all along Snyder Avenue on the south side… You guys are lucky to not be a part of “LoMo”…

      • Fisher April 16, 2014 at 9:38 am #

        So you made a bad investment, and now you want to change the rules to make up for it?

    • Carla April 18, 2014 at 2:06 pm #

      Hi David… You seem to know a lot about this area. My husband and I are in the market for some property in the area… do you have a general sense of what rents are like for commercial store fronts on East passyunk?

      • Albert Stumm April 18, 2014 at 6:41 pm #

        Hi Carla, you’ll find rents all over the map, but a rough estimate would be about $2 a square foot on Passyunk and about half that off the avenue. What kind of space are you looking for?

  3. matt April 15, 2014 at 10:32 am #

    I hope they leave that sign. Seriously, that’s a neighborhood treasure.

    • ProvWitout April 16, 2014 at 4:14 am #


  4. Ian April 15, 2014 at 10:40 am #

    Well said, David G.

    And I agree, that sign is amazing.

  5. enneirda April 15, 2014 at 10:46 am #

    I rather have an occupied apartment filling a building than a vacant commercial space.

  6. Joseph Di Dio April 15, 2014 at 10:50 am #

    If the property is no longer viable as a commerical space, why not convert to apartment. This us better than having an empty space.

    • Linda K April 15, 2014 at 1:11 pm #

      I agree.Why not?

    • ProvWitout April 16, 2014 at 4:26 am #

      Well of course we need to try and fail at having some vegan food joint first… Or some Thai takeout joint that uses two parking spaces worth of street for its delivery cars.. And then maybe a methadone clinic… Then maybe the meth heads will start a fire and the place will burn down. Then it will be an empty lot.

      Oh wait!!! Yes!!! I can see it now!!! Then there will be a DOG PARK on the empty lot!!!

  7. Pennsporter April 15, 2014 at 11:08 am #

    McKean Street is an interesting situation. The stretch from 4th to 11th has blocks with multiple vacant plots of land — let alone the vacant houses are the prevalent between Pennsport and Passyunk Ave.

    It would be interesting to see if McKean St could be re-imagined into a “connector” mixed residential/commercial corridor between Pennsport and Passyunk/Broad due to all of these properties being available.

    Not only are there multiple vacant parcels of land but the vacant buildings include houses and former commercial spaces.

    Food for thought…

  8. A A Aron April 15, 2014 at 1:46 pm #

    So I don’t get why an owner occupied building with non-conformity that way predates any building code is receiving flak and not a variance. The corner of 12th n McKean already has a ridiculously dense collection of convenience stores and hair salons. Why chase away affordable housing? My recommendation would be to toss the entire situation and open a social club. It could be a great place to hang out with plenty of haircut and snack options within 500 feet.

  9. phil April 15, 2014 at 3:38 pm #

    I think it should be converted to whatever who owns the property wants it be as long as it isn’t a nuisance to the neighborhood.

    • ProvWitout April 16, 2014 at 4:28 am #


      • AnthonyG April 16, 2014 at 9:58 am #

        Put in a BEER DISTRIBUTOR!!!!!

        • ProvWitout April 21, 2014 at 12:34 pm #

          Yeah do that! We have a shortage of them.

          • AnthonyG April 22, 2014 at 1:08 pm #

            Actually, there is a shortage of beer distributors. 6th & Morris is the closest to EPX.

            • ProvWitout April 22, 2014 at 3:57 pm #

              Front and Snyder… 16th and Snyder…

  10. Tony L April 15, 2014 at 4:20 pm #

    why would anyone have a problem turning storefronts into apartments? i can understand if it was the other way around. id say if the landlord doesnt have other problems associated with his properties, let him keep the place in use rather than vacant!

    • Fisher April 16, 2014 at 9:41 am #

      “i can understand if it was the other way around”

      That’s the problem… once the property is converted to residential, it most likely will never be converted back to commercial.

  11. Robert April 15, 2014 at 4:52 pm #

    To my mind, the better use is residential. Also significant, to me, this is not an absentee landlord/developer, but a lifelong-S. Philly resident who keeps his eye out for the neighborhood. This is a lot easier to do with a downstairs residence than an empty shop window.

    • ProvWitout April 16, 2014 at 4:29 am #


      • AnthonyG April 16, 2014 at 9:59 am #

        Open a BEER DISTRIBUTOR in that space!!!

        • ProvWitout April 21, 2014 at 12:38 pm #

          Yes! One with ugly metal garage door pull downs for graffiti artists to have their way with! Love it!

    • ProvWitout April 24, 2014 at 2:41 pm #

      Oh and Robert.. Sorry to say.. But if you haven’t noticed… These newbies, who are rookies at city living, don’t value “lifelong-S. Philly resident” as a qualifier. At least not anymore… They ignore what we say and then build some god awful dirt islands and concrete bump outs on corners like at 16th and Passyunk… Inconsiderate if you ask me…

  12. Robert Pitt April 15, 2014 at 8:03 pm #

    David G: why didn’t you mention that the beauty salon was a pre-existing nonconforming use for 50 years before the variance was applied for and granted? This suggests that you are predisposed to opposing the conversion to residential use as an apartment. Seems to me that the change is as much in the best interest of the neighborhood as the owner and I would encourage you to approach the request with an open mind. Your neighbors deserve no less from the individual in your position. I cannot pretend to be a disinterested observer since I am the owner’s father, but I can tell you that both the appraised and assessed values were not predicated on the property being a single residence at the time he bought it.

    • David G April 16, 2014 at 9:55 am #

      Robert, I can promise you that we are not predisposed either way. Just trying to point out that, like many properties in Philadelphia, there are complicated zoning issues in play. We look forward to having your son on the 23rd.

  13. Jonathan April 15, 2014 at 8:38 pm #

    This should absolutely be allowed. i cannot think of one good reason to stop this from happening.

  14. Adam April 16, 2014 at 10:26 am #

    Go for it, Robin!

    The fact that you’re looking to make improvements and doing so legally is excellent.

    Leave the sign and start calling the building the Apartments at the Beauty Salon!

  15. Doug aka "Beef" April 17, 2014 at 10:48 am #

    I agree with AA, Joseph, Robert, and Robin. It is better to have an occupied space then to have an empty store front. Let the owner rent out the space as he deems fit as he has proven a retail renter isn’t an option.
    A social club would be nice, it could be the Beauty Bro’s

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