Waterfront auto repair is all the rage – and civic associations ain’t happy

The proposed construction of a new AAA Auto Repair Center on the east side of Columbus Boulevard at Tasker Street is at the center of a procedural controversy between L&I, the Central Delaware Advocacy Group (CDAG) and the Pennsport Civic Association.

Columbus Blvd at Tasker Street back in November (image: James Jennings)
Columbus Blvd at Tasker Street back in November. The proposal is for the site of the “Available” building, which is no more

The site was recently home to a former construction company and sits at the entrance of the future Tasker Street Connector, an access “bridge” between the neighborhood and the Delaware River Trail. Both CDAG and Pennsport Civic have issues with the use, location and procedures taken to obtain the proper permits for construction.

 PlanPhilly explains how this mess got started in the first place:

Although automotive repair is a prohibited use under the Central Delaware Overlay, L&I on Jan. 2 issued a permit for “new construction for the service and light repair of automobiles, retail sales of travel services and insurance and business offices” at 1601 S. Christopher Columbus Blvd. …

While the overlay had been in effect for about seven months by the time that permit was issued, L&I spokeswoman Rebecca Swanson said the date that matters is the date on which the application was filed – June 4, 2013, one day before the City Council Rules Committee voted to recommend its passage to full council. Committee action makes a bill pending legislation, and pending legislation must be applied by L&I, so the application just got in under the wire.

Pennsport Civic has been working with Councilman Mark Squilla and has filed an appeal with the L&I Review Board. According to the PlanPhilly article, Matt Ruben, Chairman of CDAG said, “To me, it’s a no-brainer; L&I should revoke the permit.”

Orange Sticker Alert from November
Orange Sticker Alert from November (image: James Jennings)

AAA Mid-Atlantic hopes to start the project sometime in the spring. Estimated at around $3 million, the construction would look to employ “dozens” of union building trade worker and bring 25 permanent jobs to the site.

With Eric Blumenfeld looking to develop an “entire city” just up the road a piece combined with the progress at both Pier 53 and 68, this situation is going to one of many story lines to follow along with this summer as development ramps up along the Delaware waterfront.

Demolition began in January, the site is now clear (image: James Jennings)
Two buildings were demolished at Columbus Blvd. and Tasker St. in January (image: James Jennings)

– James Jennings is the founder of the blog Pennsporter — a site dedicated to exploring the neighborhood  from Washington to Snyder, the Delaware to Fourth.

4 thoughts on “Waterfront auto repair is all the rage – and civic associations ain’t happy

  • February 25, 2014 at 1:33 pm

    This will never go through, but it’s certainly a nice attempt by an extremely shifty set of developers, AAA included. Remember this next time to decide whether or not to become a member of theirs.

  • February 25, 2014 at 4:04 pm

    Given the type of business in that area already, there is no reason to suggest it COULDN’T go through. Whether it ultimately will or not is something only time will tell.

    I would say that it certainly isn’t an ideal business to go at the mouth of the future Tasker Street Connector. Then again, neither are loading docks and dumpsters that inhabit the section nearest to the trail.

    Keep a close eye on this one.

  • February 25, 2014 at 4:07 pm

    There is a Pep Boys 6 blocks away, so I don’t see how this is a use that is needed in the community. It will divert customers from one auto repair shop to another, which hardly creates added economic value.

    • February 26, 2014 at 10:27 am

      Beth, there are multiple auto repair shops on Columbus Blvd. alone, not to mention upwards of five more within the neighborhood of Pennsport.

      Columbus Blvd. is a mess that needs to see more creative uses and better defined pedestrian/bike experiences if this development along the water wants to reach it’s full potential.

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