Updated: Developers planning to turn former bank into pool hall get a deadline

The team that wants to turn an ornate, vacant bank building at Chestnut and 12th streets into a swank billiards hall will have to start construction in six months or lose necessary zoning changes under a zoning bill passed in City Council on Thursday.

First District Councilman Frank DiCicco sponsored both the original legislation, which passed in April 2011, and the proposed bill that would amend it with the six-month time limit. DiCicco at first proposed a bill that would have revoked the original legislation. His amended version, calling instead for the six-month sunset provision, passed City Council's Rules Committee last week.

“The councilman felt nothing seemed to be going on,” said Carl Engleke, the out-going zoning committee chair for the Washington Square West Civic Association, said after DiCicco made the amendement. Engleke remains on the committee.  DiCicco “did not want to leave the legislation hanging out there if nothing is moving forward.”

The project, led by developer Paul Giegerich, is called 1200 Bank and would be connected with Amsterdam Billiards in New York. The plans call for leaving the preponderance of the former Beneficial Bank in tact, winning the support of preservationists.

Engleke said last week the sunset clause is a good addition for the neighborhood. Without it, another developer could build a similar project by right, without going through the pre-legislation negotiations with Washington Square West that resulted in changes to the original billiards hall plans, including sound-blocking.

“We're disappointed that all that work (in reaching an agreement) will not be coming to fruition, if the project doesn't move forward in the next six months,” Engleke said. “But we certainly would rather not leave (the legislation) open ended. If someone else comes in, we will start negotiations over with them.”

The planning commission and historic preservationists supported the development. But a few near neighbors did not, saying the noise created would impinge on their quality of life.

Learn more about the proposed development, 1200 Bank, from previous coverage.

About the author

Kellie Patrick Gates, Waterfront, casinos, planning reporter

Kellie Patrick Gates writes about planning, neighborhood development and the Central Delaware Waterfront. A journalist for more than two decades, she  worked for daily newspapers in Central Pennsylvania, Upstate New York and South Florida before coming to Philadelphia in 2003 to write for the Inquirer. Her work has appeared on PlanPhilly since 2007, and she also writes Love, the Inquirer's weekly wedding column. A native of Elk County, Pa., Kellie lives with her husband, Gary, and their dog and two cats.

Follow her on Twitter @KelliePGates

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