By Natalie Kostelni – Reporter, Philadelphia Business Journal
Mar 7, 2018, 9:17am EST
Craft breweries are increasingly a catalyst for economic development activity in small towns and urban areas, and there’s hope that a new brewery along with other investment will help revitalize the Wayne Junction regional rail station area.
Ken Weinstein of Philly Office Retail has signed Attic Brewing Co. to a 6,000-square-foot lease at a property it owns at 137-45 Berkely St. It will be the first craft brewery in the neighborhood. Laura and Todd Lacy have been brewing beer for nearly 10 years in Germantown. They've been looking for nearly a year for a location near their Germantown home to open a brewery.
“For a brewery, you need space and warehouse space works best,” Laura Lacy said. “The Wayne Junction has big commercial buildings and the warehouse space for a brewery.”
The location is a short walk from the Wayne Junction rail station. It has access to highways such as Route 1 and ample parking, she said.
“Fingers crossed, this time next year we will be open,” she said. “Within the next five to 10 years, Germantown is going to be one of the best neighborhoods in Philadelphia.”
Attic Brewing may become an integral part of a transformation. Craft brewers brought $67.8 billion to the U.S. economy in 2016, according to the Brewers Association for Small and Independent Brewers. In Pennsylvania, one of the top five producers, they contributed $5.8 billion of to that overall amount. Breweries have become highly desired economic development tools. Attic Brewing, though, is just one slice of what Weinstein and others who are investing in the area around Wayne Junction will use.
Weinstein’s Philly Office Retail has so far spent about $2 million during the last several years assembling seven properties totaling 122,581 square feet within walking distance of the train station and he’s on the hunt for more.
The properties he owns are: 4530 Germantown Ave., where the Bargain Thrift Center occupies 13,000 square feet; 133 Berkley St., a lot where a former silk mill once stood; 137-45 Berkley, which is a complex that involves a three-story, 6,000-square-foot building and a single-story, 10,400-square-foot building; 4811 and 4701 Germantown Ave.; 212-20 Roberts Ave., a three-story, 26,665-square-foot structure known as the Max Levy building; and 4530 and 4532 Wayne Ave., which are two lots totaling 3,000 square feet that will become a public dog park.
Weinstein has filed for conservatorship for a blighted property and is considering making that move on another parcel that could eventually give him control of them. Construction will soon begin on redeveloping the properties into office, retail and residential uses. He plans to spend about $10 million on the work that is expected to be completed early 2019.
“There are lots of vacancies and the neighborhood is struggling, but there’s also lots of potential because of the train station,” he said. “We’re really going to breathe some life into here.”
SEPTA completed a $31 million redevelopment on the Wayne Junction train station in 2015, setting the stage for transit-oriented development projects and the revitalization of one of the city’s challenged neighborhoods. Weinstein, who has spent years buying and redeveloping properties up and down Germantown Avenue, is not the only one who has taken interest in Wayne Junction and Weinstein welcomes it.
“I don’t have any competition because I want everyone to invest,” he said.
Mosaic Development Partners is spending $6.5 million to convert a three-building complex at 4537-63 Wayne Ave. that had been used to manufacture medical supplies into a 40,000-square-foot project that will have 36 apartments with commercial and maker space. High Point Coffee has signed on as a tenant and will open a cafe.
“We have a love for the area and we always look for projects that could be impactful in our neighborhoods,” said Leslie Smallwood-Lewis of Mosaic.
Rather than call what Mosaic aims to accomplish with its projects gentrification, Smallwood-Lewis labels it “gentrigation” and there’s a difference between the two.
“A project brings some new life, new thoughts and people but it integrates with those who are already there,” she said. “We are not trying to push people out. We also do mixed-income projects so we have school teachers, financial analysts just starting out, people just out of grad school and have first jobs. That’s our focus and that’s what we’re trying to do at Wayne Junction.”
Aside from Attic Brewing, Weinstein has lined up a diner on a now vacant lot and a Deke’s Bar-B-Que, which will open one of its popular restaurants next door. Philly Bread Co. is relocating from Olney and Philadelphia Woodworking recently moved from a small space in Kensington into larger space, 9,500 square feet, at 4530 Germantown Ave., one of his buildings. Weinstein even plans to relocate his offices to one of the Wayne Junction buildings.
As part of the effort, Weinstein wants to start a Business Improvement District for the area that will focus on keeping things clean and safe. Other ambitions including getting pedestrian lighting, streetscaping, security cameras, new sidewalks and ways to calm the traffic to make the area more walkable. As a colorful addition, Mural Arts Philadelphia is considering spots for murals.