Long-awaited Fishtown hotel construction slated to begin by end of year

But, according to L&I, Developer Roland Kassis still hasn’t applied for building permits.

Fishtown hotel
Mark Dent/Billy Penn

The finish line may finally be in sight for Fishtown’s long-awaited hotel.

Construction will begin by the end of the year and the project should be ready to open in 2020, developer Roland Kassis told Billy Penn in a phone call Tuesday.

“That’s the plan, anyway,” he said.

Signs of progress would be a welcome sight for what has been a much-hyped and popular proposal since it was first discussed in 2012 and approved overwhelmingly by the Fishtown Neighbors Association in February 2015. In the years since, it has been a rare undeveloped patch — surrounded by a fence that blocks the sidewalk — in Frankford Avenue’s most bustling section.

The plan calls for a six-story hotel with 114 rooms, restaurants, office space and a rooftop pool on the lot next to Frankford Hall (at 1220 Frankford Ave). Kassis has compared it to Brooklyn’s Wythe Hotel and estimated rooms would go for between $80 to $200 a night. It would be the rare Philly hotel north of Vine Street and at the time it was originally proposed, people were saying it would be the first for Fishtown.

After getting approval from the Fishtown Neighbors Association in February 2015, the Zoning Board of Adjustment granted a permit allowing for a consolidation of seven lots into one and the building of the hotel and other parts of the project. The process will entail refurbishing an existing building — formerly a brewery — and new construction of another building, which will be done by architect Morris Adjmi. The developers could have applied for building permits after the Zoning Board’s approval and begun construction soon after.

But that didn’t happen. No building permits have been applied for, according to L&I spokesperson Karen Guss. These last two years, a handful of proposals to slightly alter the project have been brought to the Zoning Board and approved. Most recently, Kassis petitioned for the rooftop pool to hang over Leopard Street, at the rear of the hotel, and the Zoning Board granted approval.

Fishtown hotel
Morris Adjmi Architects

So why the wait for construction?

Kassis, who has developed Frankford Hall, La Colombe and many of Fishtown’s biggest sites, said it’s because he’s been busy with so many other projects in the area. He’s most recently been working on City Fitness, which just opened in January, a restaurant and multiple residences.

“I want to finish up everything else I’m doing,” Kassis said. “That project needs my 100 percent full concentration.”

Guss said the developers have until April 2018 to apply for a building permit before the Zoning Board’s approval lapses.

Meanwhile, Fishtown doesn’t have a large hotel in the way Kassis has planned, but it does technically have a hotel. Wm. Mulherin’s Sons has four hotel rooms above the restaurant at Front and Master streets that go for about $230 a night.

The next-closest hotels to Fishtown are in Old City.

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