On North Delaware Avenue, one big real estate project - the SugarHouse Casino expansion - got a green light Wednesday to proceed, but another development - the conversion of the old Ajax Metal Works into a concert venue - remains on hold.
At its monthly board meeting, the state's Gaming Control Board quickly approved a $155 million expansion of SugarHouse that calls for far less parking than originally planned.
But for the project across the street, it was a different story. The city's zoning board heard five hours of testimony, mostly on whether the Ajax project near Frankford and Delaware Avenues has enough parking.
Whether it's too much parking or too little, the two projects have the potential to change the face of the waterfront neighborhood where Northern Liberties ends and Fishtown begins.
The SugarHouse expansion had been on the drawing boards since 2009, but was delayed because of the economic downturn as well as a legal dispute between the owners that was settled last year.
The casino tweaked its plan and presented it publicly at a hearing on May 7 in Philadelphia. The seven gaming commissioners voted unanimously to approve the project.
It calls for reducing the height of a parking garage from 10 floors with 3,645 spaces to seven stories with 2,440 spots.
The plan also repositions the garage away from Delaware Avenue and focuses more amenities along the waterfront.
The Ajax building is on the other side of Delaware Avenue and would anchor Penn Treaty Village, an entertainment, dining, and retail development that would incorporate old buildings along Canal Street.
Developer Michael Samschick wants to convert the Ajax building into a Live Nation concert venue, a restaurant, a 20-lane bowling alley and sports bar, and a boutique distillery with a tasting bar.
The project would also turn an abandoned dry ice warehouse on Canal Street into a Toby Keith country-and-western restaurant with live music.
A plan of development for Penn Treaty Village has been approved by the city's Planning Commission, but Samschick needs a zoning variance.
Some residents from nearby Allen Street oppose the project and argue that it lacks adequate parking.
Paul Boni, an attorney representing three Allen Street homeowners, said the Live Nation venue, which could hold up to 3,000 people, and the Toby Keith restaurant, which would accommodate 800, should be considered nightclubs. As such, he argued, the zoning code would require the project to have 1,832 parking spaces.
Samschick has parking for 500 vehicles, but said the project is close to public transportation, including the Market-Frankford El.
Jethro Heiko, who lives on Allen Street with his wife and two children, said the Ajax building could have other uses that would not disrupt the neighborhood as much as a concert venue.
Samschick testified before the zoning board that Live Nation, which wants to open a Fillmore theater, was the only anchor-tenant he could secure and is the linchpin for the project. Other tenants only signed on because of Live Nation, he said.