Change in store for troubled Frankford bar

A grocery store might occupy a notorious Frankford property, members of the Frankford Civic Association learned during their April 5 meeting.

Pete Specos, the association’s president and zoning officer, said the neighbors of 4691 Hawthorne St. already have met with the people who want to operate a bodega, or Hispanic grocery. He said he hopes they’ll all meet again before the civic group’s May meeting.

Specos said the three-story building has apartments and had been a bar on the first floor. It had been the scene of a fatal shooting.

Neighbors are requesting cameras and outside lighting because they fear the property, which is at the corner of Margaret Street, will become a hangout. A variance is needed because a retail grocery is not a permitted use, Specos said.

Christopher Spence, 20, was shot to death in what was then the T&T bar on Feb. 19, 2011. A 19-year-old North Philadelphia man, Tyrese Ford, was charged in his death. There was a push to close the bar, which already had a history of fights, underage drinking and noise.

During a demonstration just days after Spence’s death, neighbors vowed the bar would never reopen. When the business reopened under a new name, Deuces Lounge, protests took place daily across the street.

Spence’s mother, Javese Phelps-Washington, said she regarded the re-opening as a slap in the face. She said hundreds of neighborhood residents had signed a petition calling for the bar’s permanent shutdown.

A month after Spence’s death, two men fired into a crowd of protesters, inflicting minor wounds on two people. Within 10 days, Shamus Armsted of West Philadelphia, the man who operated the bar, was arrested and charged in the shooting.

The bar has never reopened, and Specos said last week that it can never again be a bar.

Court records show Ford will go on trial for murder July 9. Armsted, also known as Tyreek Johnson or Shameless, is scheduled to go on trial April 16.

In other business:

The association’s voting members last week quickly agreed to support two zoning variance requests.

Owners of a glass business want to move into a vacant light-industrial building at 5024 Mulberry St. that once housed Stanley Electric Manufacturing Co. A variance is needed because the property is in an area that currently is zoned residential.

“There is no housing on that block,” Specos said, and members agreed to support the variance.

They also backed the Church of Love and Faith’s proposal to build a recreation room addition on their property at 1680 Bridge St. Specos said the addition would have no impact on neighbors or area parking, but a variance was needed because the property was being changed. After a few questions were answered, board members voted to support the variance request.

Members voted not to support a variance needed to put offices and apartments in 2001 Bridge St. Specos said he also will ask the city’s Department of Licenses & Inspections to check the property to make sure there are proper permits for the work being done there.

He said he will make a similar request of L&I for 1543 Ruan St., where there is a plan to put a car lot on the property. A variance is needed for that, too, Specos said, because the property is residentially zoned. Board members refused to back the variance request.

Records from the city’s Department of Revenue show more than $16,000 in back taxes, interest and penalties are owed on the property. A city ordinance that went into effect in January 2011 requires taxes to be up to date before the Zoning Board of Adjustment may consider a variance for a property.

According to the city’s online records, 1543–1547 Ruan St. was purchased by Phos Holdings LLC of the 8100 block of Castor Ave. in 2005, and there are liens on the property for 2009, ’10 and ’11. This year’s taxes also have not been paid, according to online records.

Members voted to withhold support for a variance that would legalize a carport built at 5117 Torresdale.

Last week’s meeting began on a very sad note when Specos announced the loss of neighborhood businessman and board member Steve McClintock, 47, who died April 4.

McClintock had been a longtime member of the community group and had been a board member for two years, Specos said.

“He was very involved in the neighborhood,” Specos said.

McClintock was the owner of Torresdale Used Auto Parts on the 1900 block of Church St., and also had owned a towing company, Specos said.

McClintock lived on the 3300 block of Oakmont St. He grew up in Frankford and remained “very well-known in the community,” Specos said in an interview.

McClintock is the third member of the association’s board to die since late 2010. Longtime board member Thelma Young died in November of that year, and the group’s president, Frances Clay, died about a month later.

The civic association’s next meeting will be at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 3, in the second-floor conference room of Aria Health’s Frankford campus, 4900 Frankford Ave. ••