There has been some talk about the Thriftway closing next year. Rite Aid Has owned the property for several years and has opted to exercise its right to not renew the lease. They plan to demolish the existing structure and build a new Rite Aid. This will leave Frankford without a supermarket.
That is a big story in Frankford but it is only part of a larger picture. The area around the FTC (Frankford Transportation Center) has been identified as the place most likely to attract developers. They are the people who build things like shopping centers and housing. The CDC has walked through the neighborhood with some of these guys and they all say the FTC is the place to start. The CDC does not invest money to get these things done; they get developers interested in doing them. That is part of their job.
So when news that SEPTA was going to do a construction project in the 5100 block of Frankford Avenue it sounded like an opportunity. The project is to build a backup control center and also a break room for SEPTA FTC employees. It would all on that empty space between Frankfod Ave. and Griscon between Pratt and Dyre.
Meetings were held, discussions between SEPTA and the CDC took place and some form of understanding that the community’s need for a supermarket at that location would be included in the project.
At the Frankford Business and Professional Association meeting on June 23, a SEPTA representative revealed that they are about to break ground on the project and there is no provision for space for a supermarket.
Kim Washington, The Executive Director of the CDC, went into action. The SEPTA board was having a public meeting on Thursday, June 25th. With only 2 days’ notice, she got 35 residents who agreed to attend the meeting with her. They met at the CDC office on Griscom Street all wearing pink shirts with the words “Stop Executing very Poor Thoughtless Action”.
The meeting began at 3PM and at 3:30 it was adjourned. Washington rose to object saying she had to address the board. She spoke for about 6 minutes which you will find at this link.
What followed was an hour long discussion between Francis Kelly, Assistant General Manager of Public & Government Affairs and Kim Washington, Gary McLaughlin, Jennifer Powell-Folks and Nashid Edwards speaking for Frankford. The Frankford folks did a great job of making their case.
SEPTA says they cannot change their plans because they have already awarded contracts, Federal funding is approved for this location and project and any change could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to make.
Frankford argues that SEPTA is in this situation because of its own mistakes and should do the right thing to correct them.
SEPTA asks if the Rite Aid site is big enough for a Rite Aid and a supermarket. It is big enough for the buildings but would not have room for parking.
SEPTA asks if the property on 5100 block of Griscom (presently employee parking between Griscom and Penn). The property is but the streets are residential and not big enough for tractor trailer delivery.
Frankford proposes that the project be redesigned to make it a 2 story building with a supermarket on the ground floor and SEPTA use of the second floor. SEPTA says this would be a major redesign that would cost a lot of money.
Frankford proposes that the SEPTA building go over on the lot with the new Rite Aid. There is enough room for those two buildings. SEPTA says the funding is for the building to go where it is planned to go and changing it will cost a fortune.
The lack of communication with the Frankford community is the real heart of the matter. A SEPTA representative attends the Frankford Business and Professional Association meetings routinely but SEPTA maintains that they met their obligation of notifying the community by advising Philadelphia City Council and posting public notices in the newspapers about the project. That does not sound like a solid community partnership.
While you might expect that from a corporation in the private sector, SEPTA is a public agency.
There was no resolution at the meeting but they did commit to meet again. Further news will be forthcoming.