By Peter Crimmins
Rumors of its death may have been exaggerated, but they are not entirely inaccurate. The King of Jeans, and its iconic Patrick Nagel-esque sign at 13th and Passyunk Avenue, have been edging toward kaput for a few years. Now there are "going out of business" signs in the windows, and a new kid on the block might deal the killing blow.
Max Glass (son of TV personality Nancy Glass) came before the planning committee of the East Passyunk Crossing Civic Association last night to reveal his plans to renovate 1843 E. Passyunk, which is actually four buildings awkwardly cobbled together. He wants develop the second, third and fourth stories into a dozen one-bedroom apartments, keeping retail on the street floor. The buildings allow for six units by right; he needs a zoning variance to build 12.
The meeting took place in a small chapel on the 11th Street campus of the Saints John Neumann and Maria Goretti High School. It was drowning in the hum of an ancient window air unit doing its best on the hottest day the year, until somebody turned it down.
"If you don't have a South Philly voice that can be heard, get one!" yelled Joe Marino, co-chair of the civic association, turning the AC unit back up. The room of about 16 long-time residents strained to hear Max Glass, 25, pitch his project.
If Glass' vision becomes reality, it will be another step in the unstoppable Brooklyn-ization of the neighborhood: twelve one-bedroom units of 650 to 850 square feet, with 8-foot ceilings, renting for about $1,000 to young professionals 25 to 35 years old. "People like me," said Glass.
The room nodded in approval at the prospect of an influx of the young, single people, but chafed at the parking issues. Glass insisted the tenants will be encouraged to not own cars, instead use public transportation, bicycles and Zipcar.
Glass' first and only development, still being completed, is a mixed-use building at 22nd and Catharine, which will bring a new Ultimo coffeeshop into Graduate Hostpital next month. He does not yet have a committment for a business to take over the throne from the King of Jeans.
And the sign. What to do with the sign? Glass acknowledged a public love/hate relationship with the sign. It can't stay, as it will likely compete with whatever business takes over the space, and will get in the way of future apartment windows. A committee person gamely suggested it could be donated to the Philadelphia History Museum at Atwater Kent. But the prospect of preserving the 40-year-old sign, whose aesthetic relevance ended with Duran Duran, caused one longtime resident to yelp, "What?!"
The meeting was an informational session. Final approval of the plan by East Passyunk Crossing, and then by the city's Zoning Board, is several months off.