In early 2011, the owners of Pub & Kitchen (1946 Lombard St.) formally announced their intention to open a small Euro-style restaurant called Bedford Café at 609 S. 20th Street (above), just one block south of P&K. The plan garnered early support via SOSNA, and this past May, the Zoning Board of Adjustment granted P&K's Dan Clark the variance required to raze the dilapidated two-story residential property, which he had under contract but did not own outright, and construct a new one-story commercial space from the ground up. Less than a month later, a group of neighbors opposing the plan filed in appellate court with the aim of overturning the ZBA's decision.
After a number of delays, oral arguments for the case were slated to begin on April 2, 2012. But that date was rendered irrelevant last week, when two members of the opposition quietly succeeded in buying 609 S. 20th Street for themselves.
P&K's Clark and Ed Hackett were the only people to express legitimate interest in the 20th-and-Kater space in two years, according to Ori Feibush, president of OCF Realty. Also based in Graduate Hospital, OCF began listing the long-vacant property for its owner (listed as Doris Thomas, though we understand her son called the shots) in 2010. "The only party that came forward was Pub & Kitchen," says Feibush. "There was no [other] interest because of the condition of the home. It [is] utterly unsalvageable, structurally and economically obsolete ... a miniature haunted house."
The property's owner, reportedly frustrated with the delays caused by the zoning dispute, decided not to renew his listing contract with OCF when it elapsed in early January. At this point, P&K's agreement of sale with the owner had also expired. "The party from Pub & Kitchen had an opportunity to extend the contract, which they had already done several times," says Feibush, "but they had no way of knowing how long the process in [appellate] court would take."
Unbeknownst to both P&K and OCF, Christopher and Preeti Scalone, whom, according to public record, were among the listed appellants and reside two houses away from the space in question, were in sales negotiations with the property's owner, settling for an as-yet-unpublished amount last Tuesday, Jan. 24. "We invested a lot of time in this — talking to architects, going to board meetings, going to court, zoning back-and-forth," says Hackett, who learned of the development late last week. "I'm blown away."
It is unclear at this time what the Scalones, who have yet to respond to our request for comment, have planned for the space. "I feel that they are buying it with little clear idea of what they want to do," says Feibush. "It seems like a poor way of ensuring that the corner will stay vacant, unless they have plans to renovate it. If they were to tear it down and start over, they’d also have to go to zoning, and I would be surprised if they had a smooth pass. It's a difficult pill for a neighborhood to swallow.”
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